Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 7, pp 2945–2952 | Cite as

The association of psychosocial screening and service provision in pediatric oncology: the Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT2.0) into clinical practice

  • M. C. McCarthy
  • S. DeGraves
  • C. E. Wakefield
  • M. J. Bowden
  • L. V. Marks
  • L. K. Williams
Original Article



Distress screening in oncology has been widely endorsed in recent years. However, current knowledge of the impact of screening on delivery of clinical psychosocial services is limited. This study investigated the association between screening and psychosocial services in the early period following diagnosis of childhood cancer.


The Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT2.0) was administered by clinical social workers in two pediatric oncology centers shortly following diagnosis. Psychosocial service activity in the first 8 weeks post diagnosis was collected via social work surveys and extraction of information from hospital databases.


PAT2.0 and psychosocial service data were obtained for 89 families with a child newly diagnosed with cancer. Distribution of PAT2.0 risk categories was consistent with previous studies (57.3 % universal, 38.2 % targeted, 4.5 % clinical). Significant, weak to moderate correlations between PAT2.0 and social workers’ estimates of psychosocial risk were observed. No significant differences in the amount of psychosocial services provided to families with “universal” versus “elevated” (i.e., targeted or clinical) risk were found. Number of days in hospital was strongly and positively associated with the amount of psychosocial services families received in the first 8 weeks following diagnosis.


Psychosocial risk, as measured by the PAT2.0, and allocation of psychosocial services were not significantly associated in the early period following diagnosis. Further investigation is required to understand if differences emerge over time when psychosocial screening is implemented clinically. Development of clinical pathways of care needs to account for patients who may predominantly be treated in the outpatient setting.


Screening Pediatric oncology Distress Psychosocial Childhood cancer 



This study was funded by the Victorian Cancer Agency (Supportive Care Capacity Building Grant SCB11_09), The Ponting Foundation, and the Victorian Government Department of Human Services and Operational Infrastructure Support Program. Maria McCarthy is supported by an MCRI Career Development Award. Claire Wakefield is supported by a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (APP1067501) and an Early Career Development Fellowship from the Cancer Institute of NSW (ID 11/ECF/3-43). The Behavioral Sciences Unit is supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge the families and the health care providers, particularly the social workers, who were so generous in their participation in this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

This research involved human participants and was approved by The Royal Children’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee (ref. no. 31230A) and the Monash Children’s Human Research Ethics Committee (ref. no. 12070X). All participants provided written consent to participate in the study.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare including no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work and no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare. The authors have full control of the data and agree to share this with the journal if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. McCarthy
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. DeGraves
    • 3
  • C. E. Wakefield
    • 4
    • 5
  • M. J. Bowden
    • 1
  • L. V. Marks
    • 1
  • L. K. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Murdoch Childrens Research InstituteParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Children’s Cancer CentreRoyal Children’s HospitalParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Children’s Cancer CentreMonash Children’s HospitalClaytonAustralia
  4. 4.Behavioral Sciences Unit proudly supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation, Kids Cancer CentreSydney Children’s HospitalSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Discipline of Pediatrics, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, UNSW MedicineUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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