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Background Patients with cancer often experience distress, and early detection and management of psychologic distress are vital for improving patients’ outcomes. Objective This study investigates the validity and determines the optimal cutoff score—for clinically significant distress—for the Taiwanese Distress Thermometer (DT). Methods This study consisted of 768 inpatients diagnosed with cancer in a general hospital in southern Taiwan. The condition of psychologic distress was assessed in these patients using the DT and Chinese Health Questionnaire-12. We applied a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis to evaluate the discriminative validity of the DT, adopting the Chinese Health Questionnaire-12 score of ≥4 as having psychologic distress. We also used a logistic regression model to determine the associated factors of the concordant screening results of both the DT and the Chinese Health Questionnaire-12. Results The DT demonstrated an acceptable validity of discriminating between patients with psychologic distress and those without (area under curve = 0.787). We found a DT score of 4 to be the best cutoff value, with a 72.2% of sensitivity, a specificity of 80.0%, and an accuracy of 79.2%. The concurrence between the DT and the Chinese Health Questionnaire-12 was related to patients’ sex and chemotherapy treatment experience. Conclusion Our findings show that the DT has acceptable psychometric properties for identifying psychologic distress in patients with cancer. However, the optimal cutoff point of the DT may vary with patients’ characteristics.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





496 - 505


Psychometrics, Screening, Sensitivity, Specificity, Chemotherapy, Sex