BACKGROUND. Significant barriers to cancer patients receiving mental health treatment for distress have been reported in the literature. The objective of the current study was to determine whether distress in older patients (aged 65 years and older) would be reduced with educational materials (EM) supplemented by monthly telephone monitoring (TM) (TM + EM) compared with the use of EM alone because of more timely referrals to appropriate health professionals. METHODS. One hundred ninety-two older patients with breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers who had advanced disease and currently were receiving treatment were randomized to receive either TM + EM or EM alone. One hundred thirty-one patients were evaluated by telephone interview for psychologic and physical distress and for social support at baseline and at 6 months using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)-QLQ-C30 quality-of-life questionnaire, and the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) Social Support Survey. Patients who in the TM + EM group were called monthly for 6 months to monitor their distress using the HADS and EORTC physical symptom items and the MOS Social Support Survey items, with cutoff levels were established to indicate which patients were in greater distress. Those patients who scored above the cutoff levels were referred to their oncology nurse for referral to the appropriate professional. Patients in the EM group received written materials regarding cancer-related psychosocial issues and available resources. RESULTS. At 6 months, patients in the TM + EM group reported significantly less anxiety (HADS; P < .0001), depression (HADS; P =.0004), and overall distress (HADS; P < .0001) compared with patients in the EM group. CONCLUSIONS. Monthly monitoring of older patients' distress with TM and EM along with referral for appropriate help was found to be an efficient means of reducing patients' anxiety and depression compared with patients who received only EM.
- Quality of life