The Society of Surgical Oncology, inc.
The American Society of Breast Surgeons.
Annals of Surgical Oncology

Log in | Register

Distress: Characterizing What Causes the Thermometer to Shift in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Attending a Multidisciplinary Clinic

Chelsey C. Ciambella MD, Charu Taneja MD, Don S. Dizon MD, FACP, FASCO, Doreen L. Wiggins MD, Christine M. Emmick MD, Kara L. Leonard MD, Mary L. Lopresti DO, Sabrina Witherby MD, Diana Cabral, Serena Snow CN, Theresa A. Graves MD
Breast Oncology
Volume 26, Issue 10 / October , 2019



A diagnosis of breast cancer (BC) can result in multifactorial stress. If not addressed, distress can have a negative impact on outcomes. The experience of patients with newly diagnosed BC has not been sufficiently investigated. This study characterizes distress among new patients in a multidisciplinary care (MDC) clinic. The study aimed to determine the degree of distress at presentation, to characterize the sources, and to evaluate the impact of an MDC visit.


A retrospective review was performed from January 2015 to November 2017. Charts were accessed for demographics, tumor characteristics, and treatment data. Distress scores (DS) and problems as captured using the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Distress Thermometer were completed before evaluation and in a subgroup after an MDC visit. Predictors of severe distress (DS ≥4) were investigated using multivariable logistic regression. The paired t test was used to determine the impact of an MDC visit.


The mean initial DS (n = 474) was 4.98. The top four sources of distress were worry, anxiety, fears, and sadness. Age younger than 65 years was significantly associated with a higher DS at presentation (p < 0.003). Among the patients queried before and after MDC (n = 137), a significant reduction in distress was identified (5.58–2.94; p < 0.0005).


Severe distress was found in 66 % of the patients with a recent diagnosis of BC, with younger age related to higher distress scores at presentation. Emotional stressors were the predominant factors accounting for distress. A same-day MDC visit was associated with a significant reduction in DS. These data indicate the importance and feasibility of proactively screening patients. Our research lends support to the value of multidisciplinary evaluation in this setting.

Add a comment

0 comment(s)



Join the conversation!

Follow the journal on Twitter and Facebook

Help to expand the reach of the journal to support the research and practice needs of surgical oncologists and their patients.