Psychosocial distress and its effects on the health-related quality of life of primary brain tumor patients

Written by Randazzo D, Peters KB

All cancer patients experience distress from the diagnosis, the effects of the disease or the treatment. Clinically significant distress decreases overall quality of life and the recognition of distress with prompt intervention is essential. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network distress thermometer (NCCN-DT) is a validated measuring tool that has been utilized in the primary brain tumor population to detect psychologic distress thereby provoking a referral process to the appropriate support system. Brain tumor patients commonly reported emotional and physical distress encompassing: fatigue, fears, memory and concentration and worry. More research is needed to identify the stressors of all primary brain tumor patients and their caretakers and integrate appropriate interventions to improve health-related quality of life in both groups.
All cancer patients experience distress from the diagnosis, the effects of the disease or the treatment. Recognition of distress with prompt intervention is essential in order to improve health-related quality of life (HRQOL). In a large cross sectional analysis of 2776 cancer patients, lung patients had the highest level of distress followed by pancreatic, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and brain, of which brain was 2.9% of the population [1]. Up to 47% of cancer patients report significant levels of distress along with 40% having mood disorders [1–3].

Fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression are the most frequently reported cancer symptoms which can be compounded by existing psychologic conditions. Having a psychiatric history, a substance or physical/sexual abuse history, or comorbid illnesses with uncontrolled symptoms are all risk factors for increased stress. Even though younger patients have better progression-free survival, these patients, along with those that are female, live alone, have children, have lower incomes and longer duration of illness also have an increased risk of distress [1,4–7].

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