Distress Screening

Woman Counseling a Man in Her Office Distress screening in the field of psychosocial oncology has its roots in seminal work of Weisman, Worden, & Sobel where, in 1980, these investigators studied the early reactions of cancer patients to their diagnosis. In more recent years, psychosocial distress screening and distress management of cancer patients has been given greater attention through the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and Institute of Medicine.

By the latter part of 2015, the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer required cancer programs to establish a method to screen all newly diagnosed patients for their level of distress, and based on results, offer appropriate levels of psychosocial care. These new accreditation standards have placed a heavy burden on some cancer centers, who are actively seeking ways to overcome challenges and barriers with implementing comprehensive distress screening programs.

APOS has a growing number of resources available for professionals in the field of psychosocial oncology actively engaged in distress screening and management.

Additional Resources


APOS proudly endorsed the following NCCN Guidelines:

NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

Other Professional Resources Pertinent to Distress Screening

ACCC Psychosocial Distress Screening Project

APOS has partnered with the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) in a project about psychosocial distress screening in the cancer care setting with the goal to improve patient care and the overall patient experience. The aim of this project was to share lessons learned from ACCC-member programs that have successfully implemented distress screening programs with cancer centers that are still working on implementation. To this end, three ACCC-member programs were selected from a pool of 40 sites to participate in a site visit and in interviews to learn about their distress screening programs.

Findings and information gathered were presented in a white paper on distress screening and shared resources/tools. The results of this project were presented at the APOS/IPOS 2015 World Congress of Psycho-Oncology in July 2015 and at the ACCC National Oncology Conference in October 2015.

Joint Position Statement from APOS, AOSW, ONS on Implementing Distress Screening

In July 2013, APOS, AOSW, and ONS issued a joint position statement fully endorsing the new CoC standard  3.2 on psychosocial distress screening.

Distress Screening Webinars

APOS has a recorded webinars available for download and purchase (free to APOS members).

Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Distress Screening, presented by Teresa Deshields, PhD, Matthew Loscalzo, LCSW, Ellen Dornelas, PhD and Amanda Seltzer, MSW. Originally presented on 5 February 2015.

Opportunities and Challenges in Implementing Screening Programs, led by experts Paul Jacobsen, PhD, Moffitt Cancer Center, and Karen Clark, MD, City of Hope. Originally presented on 23 May 2012.

Interview on Psychosocial Distress Screening Quality Care Standard


Learn more about The Commission on Cancer’s Psychosocial Distress Screening Quality Care Standard: How and Why it Was Adopted by viewing this APOS-recorded interview featuring Lynne Wagner PhD, Northwestern University, and Stewart Fleishman MD, American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, interviewed by Tampa Bay Times health columnist Irene Maher.

Other Professional Resources Pertinent to Distress Screening

Implementing Comprehensive Biopsychosocial Screening Program, City of Hope

Other Organizations with Resources Pertinent to Distress Screening
Association of Oncology Social Workers
Cancer Support Community
Oncology Nursing Society