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Screening for cancer-related psychological distress reduces hospital admissions

Cancer-related psychological distress can contribute to additional mortality and morbidity, worse healthcare outcomes, increased service use and healthcare costs.

Cancer-related psychological distress can contribute to additional mortality and morbidity, worse healthcare outcomes, increased service use and healthcare costs.

The identification of such a deleterious effect resulted in the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer mandating that all US patients be screened for distress and all proper and applicable responses undertaken.

In this study, social work researchers reviewed more than 8,000 electronic health records from 55 participating cancer centres. According to their findings, just under two-thirds of cancer programmes in the US adhere to this standard of using screening protocols in their clinical practice. Adherence to screening protocols was significantly higher for patients among the older age group and those who identified as black and minority ethnic.

The researchers noted that attendance at emergency departments by patients who had not been screened or had their distress responded to was much

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Cancer-related psychological distress can contribute to additional mortality and morbidity, worse healthcare outcomes, increased service use and healthcare costs.

The identification of such a deleterious effect resulted in the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer mandating that all US patients be screened for distress and all proper and applicable responses undertaken.


Picture: iStock

In this study, social work researchers reviewed more than 8,000 electronic health records from 55 participating cancer centres. According to their findings, just under two-thirds of cancer programmes in the US adhere to this standard of using screening protocols in their clinical practice. Adherence to screening protocols was significantly higher for patients among the older age group and those who identified as black and minority ethnic.

The researchers noted that attendance at emergency departments by patients who had not been screened or had their distress responded to was much higher than in those who had been assessed and had their concerns addressed.

They suggest that screening for symptomatic distress could therefore reduce emergency department visits and inpatient admissions by nearly 20%.


Zebrack B, Kayser K, Bybee D et al (2017) A practice based evaluation of distress screening protocol adherence and medical service utilisation. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 15, 7, 903-912.

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