Distress screening in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell (HSCT) caregivers and patients

Margaret Bevans, Leslie Wehrlen, Olena Prachenko, Karen Soeken, James Zabora, Gwenyth R. Wallen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family caregivers of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) patients are at risk for experiencing significant psychological distress yet screening caregivers has not been well studied. Objective: This analysis explored the psychometric characteristics of the Distress Thermometer (DT) by examining its relationship, sensitivity, and specificity relative to the Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI-18) and the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory (MFSI) in a sample of allogeneic HSCT caregivers and patients. Methods: Longitudinal data were drawn from an ongoing intervention study for HSCT caregivers and patients. Data from one hundred and fifty-six English-speaking adults where patients (n = 65) were receiving their first allogeneic HSCT with at least one adult caregiver (n = 91) were eligible for this analysis. Study questionnaires were administered at baseline, initial discharge, and 6 weeks following discharge. Results: Construct validity was supported by significant relationships (p<0.001) between the DT and the BSI-18 GSI and the MFSI-Emotional subscales for caregivers and patients. The diagnostic utility of the DT for patients was good (AUC = 0.85±0.05, p = 0.001), while for caregivers it was poor (AUC = 0.61±0.08, p = 0.28). A DT cut point of 5 was supported for patients (sensitivity = 1.0, specificity = 0.68), while for caregivers there was less confidence (sensitivity = 0.70, specificity = 0.52). Caregivers and patients reporting a higher number of problems had a greater level of distress (p<0.001). Conclusions: These findings support the validity of the DT in screening for distress in HSCT caregivers and patients. Although the diagnostic utility of the DT for HSCT caregivers may be limited, understanding factors associated with distress can guide practice for this understudied population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-622
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • accuracy
  • cancer
  • distress screening
  • distress thermometer
  • oncology
  • validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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