Tools and Technology
Use of the Distress Thermometer in Clinical Practice
Kristin K. Ownby, PhD, RN, ACHPN, AOCN®, ANP-BC
UT Health Cizik School of Nursing, Houston, Texas
Author’s disclosures of conflicts of interest are found at the end of this article.
Kristin K. Ownby, PhD, RN, ACHPN, AOCN®, ANP-BC, UT Health Cizik School of Nursing, 6901 Bertner Street, Houston, TX 77030. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Distress is experienced by many cancer patients, adversely affecting quality of life and cancer care. Although it is often manageable, it remains woefully underidentified and underreported. Distress can occur anytime during the cancer experience and is associated with depression, anxiety, missed appointments, and adverse outcomes. In 1999, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), recommended routine screening for distress in all cancer patients. The Distress Thermometer (DT) was developed as a simple tool to effectively screen for symptoms of distress. The instrument is a self-reported tool using a 0-to-10 rating scale. Additionally, the patient is prompted to identify sources of distress using a Problem List. The DT has demonstrated adequate reliability and has been translated into numerous languages. The tool is easy to administer and empowers the clinician to facilitate appropriate psychosocial support and referrals.
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