Feasibility of the psychological distress profile for evaluating distress among cancer patients.


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Cancer patients experience psychological distress due to various factors including length of time since diagnosis, demographic characteristics, and type of cancer (Cutillo et al., 2017; Zabora et al., 2001). The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) standards of care for distress management for cancer patients include effective screening for psychological distress (2020b). While the NCCN recommends using the Distress Thermometer (DT) and Problem List due to their brief nature (2020a), it has been shown that “ultra-short methods,” such as the DT, have high rates of false positives (Mitchell, 2007). Thus, the field needs a brief screening measure of distress that provides more detail about the features of the distress than does the DT. This study aimed to assess the feasibility, acceptability, reliability, and validity of the Psychological Distress Profile (PDP; Elkins & Johnson, 2015) for evaluating distress among cancer patients. Two hundred forty-one participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and administered the PDP; Distress Thermometer (DT); Problem List; and standard measures of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and anger. Results demonstrated that participants were able to complete the PDP in an online format and reported high ratings of acceptability, ease of completion, and willingness to complete the PDP. The PDP also demonstrated high internal consistency when used among cancer patients (Cronbach’s α = .92). Furthermore, the PDP demonstrated a small positive correlation with the DT (r = .16, p = .012). The subscales of the PDP significantly correlated with established measures of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression (correlations ranging from r = .14 to r = .77), but the PDP risk factor questions did not significantly correlate with the established measures of depression and hopelessness. Additionally, incremental validity of the PDP was supported for all established measures except the HADS-D. Lastly, both male and female participants reported higher ratings of distress in this study compared to participants from a previous study of the PDP with the general population (Elkins & Johnson, 2015). Overall, the results establish the PDP to be a theory-driven, easily completed, and comprehensive assessment of psychological distress among cancer patients.