Measuring psychosocial functioning in the radiation oncology clinic: A systematic review

Clayton B. Hess, Allen M. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background This paper aimed to systematically review the (1) prevalence, (2) risk factors, (3) interventions, and (4) measurement instruments associated with psychosocial function decline in radiation therapy (RT) patients. Methods A MEDLINE systematic literature review was performed to identify studies monitoring psychosocial function among RT patients as a primary endpoint. Results Fifty-seven and 22 risk factors for RT-related psychosocial function decline were identified and refuted, respectively, in 93 eligible studies representing 12,808 patients. Median prevalences of psychosocial function decline prior to, during, and following RT were 20%, 36%, and 25%. Prior to RT, anxiety was more prevalent than depression (20% vs 15%), but dropped following completion of RT, whereas median depression levels remained elevated (17% vs. 27%). Of the 79 identified risk factors, 17 were reported as predictive of psychosocial decline by two or more more studies, and five had robust support: (1) physical symptoms, (2) time point during RT, (3) chemotherapy reception, (4) female gender, and (5) younger age. Three interventions were consensually reported to improve psychosocial function: psychotherapy, nursing consultation/patient education, and self-management training. Eighty-six different assessment tools were used to monitor RT-related psychosocial function decline with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (25.8%) and the psychiatric interview (22.6%) being the most utilized. The distress thermometer has been used in 5 studies (5.4%) to date. Conclusion Psychosocial function declines in approximately one-third of RT patients. Anxiety can dissipate after initiation of RT, whereas depression can persist throughout and after RT. Severe physical symptoms and time-related factors most robustly predict psychosocial function decline, which can be improved by psychotherapy and interventions aimed to improve patient education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)841-854
Number of pages14
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2014


  • anxiety
  • cancer
  • depression
  • radiation oncology
  • radiotherapy psychosocial function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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