Use of the Distress Thermometer to discern clinically relevant quality of life differences in women with breast cancer

Qual Life Res. 2012 Mar;21(2):215-23. doi: 10.1007/s11136-011-9934-3. Epub 2011 May 29.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the ability of Distress Thermometer (DT) scores to discern important differences in quality of life scores among women with breast cancer.

Methods: The National Comprehensive Cancer Network's DT, the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast (FACT-B), and a demographic questionnaire were completed by 111 women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Results: Patients considered moderately to severely distressed (score ≥ 4 on DT) scored significantly lower on FACT-B QOL scales and subscales when compared to those in the group scoring 3 or below. For those scales for which minimally important differences (MIDs) have been established, differences between the two groups were 2-3 and a half times the established MID.

Conclusions: Moderately to severely distressed patients have significantly lower QOL than those with expected or mild distress. The DT provides a quick and easy screening tool to alert the healthcare team to clinically relevant alterations in patients' QOL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*