Understanding and addressing the informational needs of radiation therapists concerning the management of anxiety and depression in patients receiving radiation therapy treatment

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Lavergne, Carrie ; Taylor, Amy ; Gillies, Carol ; Barisic, Vanessa (2015)

<p>Purpose - \ud Cancer Care Ontario has mandated that all health care professionals working within oncology centres in Ontario should routinely screen and address symptoms of anxiety and depression in cancer patients. This study aims to assess the informational needs of radiation therapists (RTs) concerning the discussion and management of anxiety and depression symptoms in patients receiving radiation therapy treatment. It will also attempt to determine whether RTs believe that reviewing patients' self-reported symptoms should be included as part of their routine patient assessment.</p>\ud \ud <p>Methods - \ud A questionnaire was initially piloted at the host institution to six randomly chosen RTs and then sent via e-mail to all radiation therapists practising in Ontario, Canada (N = 921). The online questionnaire consisted of multiple choice questions and was divided into the following four themes: (1) RT comfort levels surrounding the topics of anxiety and depression; (2) management of anxiety and depression in cancer patients; (3) further education needed/requested in anxiety and depression symptom management; and (4) the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS). Data analyses included the calculation of means and two sample two-sided t tests to examine the relationships between various demographics and responses.</p>\ud \ud <p>Results - \ud \ud RTs feel more comfortable in the discussion of issues surrounding anxiety when compared with depression. The most common positive factor affecting RTs' comfort levels addressing emotional distress is previous experience with patients who have expressed these symptoms; whereas, the most common adverse factor affecting comfort levels is the lack of education regarding emotional distress. Eighty-seven percent of RTs would like further education surrounding anxiety and depression symptom management. Seventy-eight percent of RTs agree that ESAS is an important tool for symptom management; however, only 16% actually use this tool in their clinical practice.</p>\ud \ud <p>Conclusions - \ud Although RTs within Ontario feel fairly comfortable addressing anxiety and depression symptoms, they have indicated that further education regarding these topics would be useful. Further research into seamlessly incorporating ESAS into RTs' daily practice should be considered.</p>
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