Background: Psychosocial care in cancer medicine has become increasingly important. The first psychiatric consultation-liaison (C-L) outpatient clinic in Taiwan was established in a department of radiation oncology in a medical center in Oct. 1998.
Methods: From October 1998 through January 2000, 121 patients were referred for psychosocial evaluation. Six referred patients were excluded because of cerebral complications of malignant disease or coincidental psychiatric disorder. The remaining 115 patients were referred because of psychological problems related to their malignant disease. These patients were divided into 'depression related disorder' and 'anxiety related disorder' groups according to psychiatric standard diagnoses. The records of these referred patients were retrospectively analyzed based on the psychiatric diagnoses.
Results: The outpatient utilization rate for psychiatric consultation escalated from 0% to 5.92% after the C-L clinic was established. Patients with nasopharynx, breast, and head and neck cancer had higher referral, rates (over 10%) than patients with other types of cancer. There were significant differences in major subjective psychiatric problems and psychological reactions between patients with psychiatric diagnosis and those without psychiatric diagnosis. Cancer patients who were diagnosed with 'depression related disorder' visited this clinic more times than those with 'anxiety related disorder'. The former received antidepressant drugs more frequently than the latter. There were also more multiple visits in the former group than the latter group.
Conclusion: Locating a C-L clinic in a radiation oncology department improves access to psychiatric evaluation, early detection and continuous intervention can then be offered to cancer patients with anxiety or depression, especially those with 'depression related disorder'.