Screening for distress in cancer: Does it influence uptake of care?


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Alex Mitchell1
1University of Leicester

Abstract

Screening for distress is recommended by several organizations following cancer but the evidence base is unclear. We reviewed 33 publications involving a total of about 17,000 cancer patients. Screening with follow-up enhanced psychosocial care by 9.1% (risk difference). 8 implementation studies measured receipt of psychosocial referral before and after distress screening and referrals increased by 11.6%. Six implementation studies examined the effects of screening for quality of life on communication. Screening increased clinician-patient communication of emotional issues by only 5.8%. Unfortunately even when offered help only 36.5% of distressed cancer patients were immediately willing to accept professional psychosocial help although 51.6% would consider it now or in the future. Screening can influence uptake of care but the effect is modest and barriers must be addressed for screening to be a success.