Distress During Radiation Therapy: Assessment Among Patients With Breast or Prostate Cancer

Stephen J. Stapleton, PhD, MS, RN, CEN, FAEN; Teresa D. Valerio, DNP, APN, FNP-BC, CBSM; Kim Schafer Astroth, PhD, RN; and Shermian Woodhouse, MD, MPH


Background: Distress is regarded as the sixth vital sign in cancer care, but few studies describe distress in patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess distress levels among patients with breast or prostate cancer undergoing radiation therapy and investigate which problems contribute to patients' distress levels.

Methods: A retrospective medical record review was conducted for 217 patients with breast or prostate cancer at a midwestern community cancer center. Demographic data, distress scores, and problems or concerns from the patient-completed Distress Thermometer and associated Problem List were collected. Descriptive and bivariate statistics were calculated.

Findings: The average distress of patients with breast cancer was significantly higher than that of patients with prostate cancer, and patients with breast cancer reported more problems than those with prostate cancer.

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