PhD student Kristen McCarter and her supervisor Sean Halpin have co-authored a protocol paper just published in BMJ Open. The paper outlines a systematic review looking at the screening and referral processes for patients with cancer who are experiencing distress. Between 35% and 40% of patients with cancer experience distress at some stage during their illness. Despite this, distress is often unrecognised in patients with cancer by clinicians. Distress may affect functioning, capacity to cope, treatment compliance, quality of life and survival of patients with cancer, and increase the treatment burden to the medical team and healthcare system. Addressing distress in cancer populations is, therefore, an important health priority.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Distress Management, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance manual, Improving Supportive and Palliative Care for Adults with Cancer recommend routine screening for psychosocial distress and subsequent assessment or referral to appropriate services by those responsible for the care of patients with cancer. Despite evidence-based guideline recommendations, screening and referral of patients with cancer for psychosocial distress is not routinely conducted by clinicians responsible for the clinical management of patients with cancer. While previous reviews of interventions have examined the effects of common distress screening tools, for example, the Distress Thermometer on patients with cancer outcomes such as quality of life or depression, or the impact of patient-reported outcome measures to improve identification of distressed patients and improve treatment decisions, we are not aware of any previous systematic review of interventions to improve clinician provision of screening and appropriate referral of patients with cancer per se. In the absence of reviews particularly aimed at interventions to increase screening and referral for distress in patients with cancer, the primary aims of this review are to determine the impact of interventions to improve clinician provision of screening and appropriate referral of patients with cancer for distress.
McCarter K, Britton B, Baker A, Halpin S, Beck A, Carter G, Wratten C, Bauer J, Booth D, Forbes E, Wolfenden L. Interventions to improve screening and appropriate referral of patients with cancer for distress: systematic review protocol. BMJ Open 2015;5:e008277. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015- 008277
link to the paper: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/9/e008277.full?sid=10976dd4-cf5b-4abf-afa7-d26b11bfdf6f