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Soc Sci Med. 1983;17(7):431-8.

Symptom distress, current concerns and mood disturbance after diagnosis of life-threatening disease.


This study describes the level of symptom distress, current concerns and mood disturbance in persons with a diagnosis of one of two life-threatening diseases at two occasions. The sample included 56 lung cancer patients and 65 heart attack patients who completed interviews at 1 and 2 months post diagnosis. Data were obtained using a modified version of the McCorkle and Young Symptom Distress Scale, the Weisman and Worden Inventory of Current Concerns and the Profile of Mood States. One conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that the plight of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients appears to be bleaker than that of heart attack patients. Cancer patients experienced more symptom distress of all kinds than heart attack patients. They also reported more health and existential concerns and they suffered more mood disturbances, on the average, than heart attack patients did. The most striking finding of the mean differences analysis was that, although symptom distress remained the same between occasions for both groups, both kinds of patients reported fewer concerns and better mood at the second interview. Although the plight of neither type of patient improved, patients reported being in better spirits and less worried at the second measurement occasion. This reduction in concerns and mood disturbance between interviews suggests that patients assimilate that their situation is not as immediately life-threatening as they had feared.

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