Biopsychosocial Distress in Young Adult Oncology Patients: Examining Sex Differences in Sources of High Distress and Requests for Assistance

This study examines biopsychosocial problem-related distress and requests for assistance with male and female young adult patients by applying a large-scale analysis among individuals diagnosed with a variety of cancers.

A retrospective study was conducted involving 630 patients of ages 18-39 treated for cancer at City of Hope between 2009 and 2014. Patients were asked to complete a biopsychosocial problem-related distress touch-screen instrument before treatment as part of their routine clinical care.

Overall, male patients rated more biopsychosocial problems as highly distressing than female patients. Some problems were consistently endorsed as highly distressing to both male and female patients. In fact, six of the top seven highly distressing problems for each sex were similar: finances, fatigue, sleeping, side effects of treatment, pain, and feeling anxious or fearful. There were differences in the ways male and female patients preferred to ask for assistance from the medical team, as males more often preferred to speak with someone, whereas females more often preferred to receive written information.

Results indicate that sex may have a significant relationship with biopsychosocial topics of distress, likelihood of reporting distress, and preferred methods of receiving assistance. Tailoring information and resources to specific areas of distress may reduce high distress with common problems (such as finances, treatment side effects, and infertility.).

Journal of adolescent and young adult oncology. 2018 Feb 02 [Epub ahead of print]

Elaine Wheat Dawson, Karen Clark, Richard Obenchain, Matthew J Loscalzo, Jeanelle Folbrecht

Department of Supportive Care Medicine, City of Hope National Medical Center , Duarte, California.