STUDY: Predicting Psychological Distress Among Cancer Patients

A patient’s age, tobacco dependency and pain are among the variables that may increase the risk of psychological distress following a diagnosis of cancer, a new study finds.

A team of researchers from Polaris Health Directions, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Stonehill College and the University of Alabama, have identified six factors that predict distress, as well as those that influence a patient’s interest in mental health services.

The study is based on data from a randomized controlled trial that included more than 800 cancer patients receiving treatment at three comprehensive cancer centers: the University of Massachusetts Medical School Cancer Center, the Cancer Institute at Cooper Hospital in New Jersey and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Patients were surveyed using a Web-based psychosocial assessment and intervention platform—the foundation for Polaris’s oncology distress management system—on the potential physical, social and emotional effects of cancer, as well as on whether they would like to receive mental health services.

From the collected data, the researchers identified six variables that predicted the likelihood of psychological distress:

  • Being younger at diagnosis
  • A history of mental illness
  • Severe addiction to tobacco
  • Low levels of social support
  • High levels of pain
  • Significant fatigue

The data also showed that those who had a history of therapy or considerable levels of physical symptoms and side effects were more likely to express interest in counseling.

The findings offer a better understanding of what may trigger psychological distress and which patients may be more open to services that address their psychosocial needs. Armed with this information and technology that supports early identification and management, providers can design a proactive approach to interventions.

The study, “Predictors of psychological distress and interest in mental health services in individuals with cancer,” appeared this month in the Journal of Health Psychology.

For more information on Polaris’s Web-based oncology distress management platform that supports distress screening, assessment and monitoring, along with reporting and referral to treatment, please visit: /oncology/ or send an email to

About Polaris Health Directions

Polaris Health Directions is empowering the health care ecosystem to achieve greater efficiency and improved outcomes through transformative, actionable technology. By taking nearly two decades of evidence-based science out of the lab and into clinical practice, Polaris’s enterprise, cloud-based systems lead to better decisions, greater efficiency, and improved health care outcomes. Polaris’s advanced analytics help organizations execute quality improvement initiatives, apply needed services, identify cost reduction opportunities and, in many cases, indicate whether a particular course of treatment is likely to have a positive result. By recognizing the nexus between psychosocial and physical health, Polaris offers powerful solutions for better health care delivery. Learn more: /. Follow Polaris on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.