Sometimes it can be difficult for people who have been diagnosed with cancer to put into words how they are feeling.

Tools such as a distress thermometer can be very helpful in explaining to others what you’re experiencing.

You may be familiar with a pain scale, where you’re asked to describe your level of pain on a scale from 0 to 10. A score above 5 indicates significant pain.

Similar to the pain scale, a distress thermometer allows you to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling on a distress scale from 0 to 10. It asks you to rate how much distress you have been feeling over the past week, including today.

The scale ranges from ‘no distress’ (0) to ‘extreme distress’ (10). People with a distress level above 5 on the thermometer will usually need some form of professional support.

The thermometer also comes with a list of specific problems different people face and asks you to circle any that have been an issue for you in the past week, including today. This can open up the opportunity to work through specific issues.

For an example of a distress thermometer see the Cancer Australia guide 'Cancer – how are you travelling?", which provides information about the social and emotional aspects of cancer.