Objective: To test the feasibility and acceptability of a telephone-based program to screen survivors of colorectal cancer (CRC) for distress, and to refer distressed patients to their treating health service.
Design, setting and participants: A prospective, multicentre study involving 59 patients with CRC recruited from six public and private health services in Melbourne, Victoria, from 15 June 2008 to 22 September 2009. Patients who had completed adjuvant chemotherapy for CRC were contacted (7-10 days after recruitment [outcall one] and again 4 weeks later [outcall two]) by the Cancer Council Victoria's helpline nurse, and screened for distress with the Distress and Impact Thermometer (DIT); participants were given tailored information and support and those with distress scores of > or = 5, and impact scores of > or = 4, were referred for follow-up. Telephone interviews were conducted 4 weeks after outcall two. Participating helpline and health service staff were surveyed on the feasibility and acceptability of the service.
Main outcome measure: Anxiety and depression, measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).
Results: Of the 59 patients (87%) who agreed to participate, 63% were men; their mean age was 59 years (SD, 9.5 years). HADS depression decreased significantly from baseline (mean score, 4.93; SD, 4.22) to follow-up (mean score, 3.84; SD, 4.10; Z = -2.375; P = 0.02). However, there was no significant difference in HADS anxiety between baseline (mean score, 5.29; SD, 4.11) and follow-up (mean score, 4.78; SD, 3.65). Outcall one generated two referrals (4% of participants) and outcall two generated four referrals (8%); five of these six participants took up the referrals. Satisfaction with the program among participants was high; 82% found outcall one "quite or very helpful" and 79% found outcall two "quite or very helpful". Helpline and health service staff reported a straightforward process that did not adversely affect workloads.
Conclusion: This model of care carries the potential to meet ongoing psychosocial needs of survivors of CRC.