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Open Access Study protocol

The effectiveness of the Screening Inventory of Psychosocial Problems (SIPP) in cancer patients treated with radiotherapy: design of a cluster randomised controlled trial

Anna PBM Braeken12*, Lilian Lechner2, Francis CJM van Gils3, Ruud MA Houben3, Daniëlle Eekers4, Ton Ambergen5 and Gertrudis IJM Kempen1

Author Affiliations

1 Maastricht University, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Department of Health Care and Nursing Science, School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Netherlands Open University, Faculty of Psychology, Heerlen, The Netherlands

3 Maastricht Radiation Oncology, GROW Research Institute, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

4 Institute Verbeeten, Radiation Oncology, Tilburg, The Netherlands

5 Maastricht University, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Department of Methodology & Statistics, Maastricht, The Netherlands

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-177

Published: 9 June 2009

Abstract

Background

The Screening Inventory of Psychosocial Problems (SIPP) is a short, validated self-reported questionnaire to identify psychosocial problems in Dutch cancer patients. The one-page 24-item questionnaire assesses physical complaints, psychological complaints and social and sexual problems. Very little is known about the effects of using the SIPP in consultation settings. Our study aims are to test the hypotheses that using the SIPP (a) may contribute to adequate referral to relevant psychosocial caregivers, (b) should facilitate communication between radiotherapists and cancer patients about psychosocial distress and (c) may prevent underdiagnosis of early symptoms reflecting psychosocial problems. This paper presents the design of a cluster randomised controlled trial (CRCT) evaluating the effectiveness of using the SIPP in cancer patients treated with radiotherapy.

Methods/Design

A CRCT is developed using a Solomon four-group design (two intervention and two control groups) to evaluate the effects of using the SIPP. Radiotherapists, instead of cancer patients, are randomly allocated to the experimental or control groups. Within these groups, all included cancer patients are randomised into two subgroups: with and without pre-measurement. Self-reported assessments are conducted at four times: a pre-test at baseline before the first consultation and a post-test directly following the first consultation, and three and 12 months after baseline measurement. The primary outcome measures are the number and types of referrals of cancer patients with psychosocial problems to relevant (psychosocial) caregivers. The secondary outcome measures are patients' satisfaction with the radiotherapist-patient communication, psychosocial distress and quality of life. Furthermore, a process evaluation will be carried out. Data of the effect-evaluation will be analysed according to the intention-to-treat principle and data regarding the types of referrals to health care providers and patient satisfaction about the with radiotherapists will be analysed by means of descriptive techniques. The process evaluation data will also be analysed by means of descriptive techniques.

Discussion

Using the SIPP may prevent underdiagnosis of early symptoms reflecting psychosocial problems, should facilitate communication between physicians and patients about psychosocial distress and may contribute to adequate referral to relevant (psychosocial) caregivers.

Trial Registration

NCT00859768