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Anxiety disorders have been shown to undermine the quality of life of cancer patients. Unfortunately, medical professionals often neglect to screen for anxiety in their patients. The aim of the present study was to describe the prevalence of anxiety in patients awaiting diagnostic procedures in an oncology center waiting room, and to investigate possible relationships between anxiety and demographic and clinical variables.A cross-sectional study was performed with 398 patients who completed a self-administered questionnaire containing the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).Results of the HADS indicated that 38% of participants had anxiety, while data from the STAI showed that 46% had either high state or trait anxiety. The most frequently cited source of anxiety was concern over test results. Age, gender, employment status, and education level were correlated with anxiety.The prevalence of anxiety is high among patients awaiting diagnostic procedures. Patients in the waiting room should be routinely screened for anxiety. Careful assessment and treatment of anxiety are important components in the care of patients with cancer. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.