What is Distress?

Distress is a multifactorial unpleasant emotional experience of a psychological (cognitive, behavioural, emotional), social, and / or spiritual nature that may interfere with the ability to cope effectively with cancer, its physical symptoms and its treatment. Distress extends along a continuum, ranging from common normal feelings of vulnerability, sadness, and fears to problems that can become disabling, such as depression, anxiety, panic, social isolation, and existential and spiritual crisis.

– NCCN Practice Guidelines in Oncology 2008 p.5

Why Screen for Distress?

A system based only on physician or patient-initiated referrals to psychological services might fail to identify or overlook a significant portion of emotionally distressed patients in need. Systemic screening promotes equal access to these services. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has developed standards of care for distress which state that, “All patients should be Screened for Distress at their initial visit, and at appropriate intervals, as clinically indicated.”