Accuracy of the Emotion Thermometers (ET) screening tool in patients undergoing surgery for upper gastrointestinal malignancies

J Psychosoc Oncol. 2015;33(1):1-14. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2014.977415.


Distress is common in patients with gastrointestinal cancers. Most conventional scales are too long for routine clinic use. We tested the Emotion Thermometers (ET) tool, a brief visual-analogue scale. There are four emotional upset thermometers: distress, anxiety, depression, and anger. Sixty-nine surgical patients were recruited from an academic hospital clinic in 2012; 64 had complete data for Beck depression inventory and ET. The sample size was modest due to the specialist nature of the sample. We examined sensitivity, specificity, and area under the receiver-operator-curve. A dimensional multi-domain approach to screening for emotional disorders is preferable to using the distress thermometer alone and can be achieved with little extra time burden to clinicians. The ET is a diagnostic tool that is primarily designed for screening to identify cancer patients who would benefit by enhanced psychosocial care.

Keywords: cancer; distress; emotion; gastrointestinal; oncology; surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Anger*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / instrumentation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*