General Practitioners' Experiences with Assessing Distress in Cancer

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Five themes were observed among general practitioners (GPs) assessing patients with cancer for psychological distress, according to an article posted online in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

The study focused on seven GPs who were interviewed regarding their experiences with assessing psychological distress in patients.

The first theme was Being in a Relay.  In this category, GPs viewed the assessment of distress as being like a relay race baton, with different health care professionals comprising the team.  The GPs reported being most involved at diagnosis and in the palliative phase.

The second theme compared the assessment process to being in a relationship.  The connection was the doctor-patient relationship, which was viewed as being a strong facilitator to assessment for distress.

The third theme was Being Skilled.  In this theme, the GPs perceived themselves to be skilled enough at assessment to adopt a patient-centered approach.

The fourth theme involved barriers and was termed Being Challenged. This theme identified obstacles GPs faced when performing psychological assessments.  The challenges included the GPs’ personal emotions, patient-related factors, time, and family (presented as a duality of barrier and facilitator).

The fifth theme was the Intruder in the Room.  GPs did not perform validated screenings because they viewed the assessment as an intruder in the doctor-patient relationship.

The study suggests future research focus on objective assessments of GPs and their usage of distress assessments.

The Prostate Cancer Working Group 3 recommendations will guide clinical trial design for therapeutic
Five themes were observed among general practitioners assessing patients with cancer for psychological distress.
While psychological distress in cancer patients is common, little is known about how general practitioners assess distress.
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