The NCCN Distress Thermometer enables discussion and treatment of distress as part of routine
care for people with cancer. This free resource is now translated into 46 languages for global
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network®
(NCCN®)—an alliance of leading cancer centers in the United States—today announced the
NCCN Distress Thermometer has been translated into 46 languages. This free resource helps
providers worldwide identify and address the multifactorial aspects of distress cancer patients can
NCCN defines “distress” as an unpleasant experience of a mental, physical, social, or spiritual
nature that can affect the way people think, feel, or act. Distress may make it harder to cope with
having cancer, its symptoms, or its treatment. Using a tool like the NCCN Distress Thermometer
normalizes and encourages discussion without any stigma that can cause some patients to avoid
talking about psychological or deeply personal issues.
“The NCCN Distress Thermometer acknowledges that undergoing treatment for cancer is
distressing for everybody. This simple chart gives patients an easy way to let their doctor know
how well they’re coping,” explained Robert W. Carlson, MD, Chief Executive Officer, NCCN.
“We’ve found that a score of four or higher is an indication for further evaluation and possible
intervention. The thermometer includes a corresponding list of problems to help health care
providers determine if a patient’s distress stems from practical problems, family problems,
emotional problems, spiritual/religious concerns, physical problems, or a combination thereof.”
The NCCN Distress Thermometer was first created in 1997 by psycho-oncology pioneer Jimmie
C. Holland, MD. The late Dr. Holland was Founding Chair of the NCCN Guidelines® Panel for
Distress Management and Founding President of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.
Her goal was to make discussion of distress a routine part of oncology patient visits in order to
improve both the psychosocial and physical well-being of people with cancer.
“Managing a patient’s emotional distress as well as physical pain is an essential part of medical
treatment,” said Dr. Sonali Johnson, Head, Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy, Union for
International Cancer Control, the world’s largest international cancer-fighting organization, also
behind World Cancer Day held every February 4th. “Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable
to anxiety and depression, as well as stress at work and at home, all of which can affect their
recovery and quality of life. The NCCN Distress Thermometer provides patients and caregivers
with a valuable tool in addressing the psychological impact of illness.”
The NCCN Distress Thermometer translations are part of ongoing efforts by the NCCN Global
Team to make NCCN Guidelines and derivative products more accessible to non-English
speakers. More than 100 new translations have published this year alone, including clinical
guidelines and patient-friendly versions. NCCN also provides NCCN Framework for Resource
Stratification of NCCN Guidelines (NCCN FrameworkTM) and NCCN Harmonized GuidelinesTM
with optimal recommendations alongside pragmatic approaches to improve treatment in
resource-constrained settings, such as low- and middle-income countries. Visit nccn.org/global
and join the conversation online with the hashtag #NCCNGlobal.
The translated NCCN Distress Thermometer can be found at
nccn.org/global/international_adaptations.aspx#distress. Recently-updated NCCN Guidelines for
Patients®: Distress are also available at nccn.org/patients.
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About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of leading
cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to
improving and facilitating quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care so patients can
live better lives. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®)
provide transparent, evidence-based, expert consensus recommendations for cancer treatment,
prevention, and supportive services; they are the recognized standard for clinical direction and
policy in cancer management and the most thorough and frequently-updated clinical practice
guidelines available in any area of medicine. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients® provide expert
cancer treatment information to inform and empower patients and caregivers, through support
from the NCCN Foundation®. NCCN also advances continuing education, global initiatives,
policy, and research collaboration and publication in oncology. Visit NCCN.org for more
information and follow NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorg, Instagram @NCCNorg, and Twitter
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.