Editorial: Managing distress for cancer patients must go beyond screening

Identify, assess and triage, writes Linda E. Carlson, University of Calgary, in an editorial for the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In response to a study published this month on the cost-effectiveness of reducing distress among cancer patients, Carlson outlines the necessary components to an efficacious distress management program and argues that, with these in place, health care costs may be lowered and the patient’s overall experience improved. 

(1) Broad identification of a patient’s psychosocial needs

(2) Further assessment to determine the severity level of identified concerns and needs

(3) Referral to appropriate services

(4) Evidence-based treatment of symptoms and problems

Carlson also noted the importance of staff training and guidance for both identification of distress and navigating the referral process. She writes:

“Even coupled with attention from well-meaning nursing or radiology staff, if staff are not adequately trained and monitored or are not following evidence-based triage guidelines, patients won’t receive the services they need to effectively treat the many problems so readily identified through appropriate screening tools. … [R]esults need to be followed-up with further assessment of specific needs and appropriate referral and treatment. Without this final link,few advantages are to be gained.”

The editorial, “Screening Alone Is Not Enough: The Importance of Appropriate Triage, Referral, Treatment of Distress and Common Problems,” appeared online earlier this month.

Learn about the Polaris Oncology Distress Management System, which is a cost-effective, comprehensive, Web-based solution for screening, assessment, monitoring, reporting and referral.