Author(s): Carlson LE, Waller A, Mitchell AJ
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Abstract PURPOSE: This review summarizes the need for and process of screening for distress and assessing unmet needs of patients with cancer as well as the possible benefits of implementing screening. METHODS: Three areas of the relevant literature were reviewed and summarized using structured literature searches: psychometric properties of commonly used distress screening tools, psychometric properties of relevant unmet needs assessment tools, and implementation of distress screening programs that assessed patient-reported outcomes (PROs). RESULTS: Distress and unmet needs are common problems in cancer settings, and programs that routinely screen for and treat distress are feasible, particularly when staff are supported and links with specialist psychosocial services exist. Many distress screening and unmet need tools have been subject to preliminary validation, but few have been compared head to head in independent centers and in different stages of cancer. Research investigating the overall effectiveness of screening for distress in terms of improved recognition and treatment of distress and associated problems is not yet conclusive, but screening seems to improve communication between patients and clinicians and may enhance psychosocial referrals. Direct effects on quality of life are uncertain, but screening may help improve discussion of quality-of-life issues. CONCLUSION: Involving all stakeholders and frontline clinicians when planning screening for distress programs is recommended. Training frontline staff to deliver screening programs is crucial, and continuing to rigorously evaluate outcomes, including PROs, process of care, referrals, and economic costs and benefits is essential.
This article was published in J Clin Oncol
and referenced in Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine