Stay Up
to Date
Stay Up
to Date
Breaking News,
Updates, & More
Breaking News,
Updates, & More
Click Here to
Subscribe
Click Here to
Subscribe

New NCCN Distress Guidelines and Tools Encourage Patients to Speak Up

TON - May 2017, Vol 10, No 3 - Conference Correspondent, NCCN
Phoebe Starr

Orlando, FL—In recognition of the distress associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has produced several resources to help patients report their distress and cope with it. The organization has published the first NCCN Guidelines for Patients and NCCN Quick Guide for Distress. An updated Distress Thermometer is included in the NCCN Quick Guide for Distress. These resources are available at no charge at www.NCCN.org/patients, and on the NCCN Patient Guides for Cancer mobile applications.

The Distress Thermometer is a user-friendly tool that allows patients to self-report their distress level—on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being the most severe—during the past week. On the back of the thermometer, patients can choose from a long list of problems that their distress may be related to, including practical problems (eg, child care, insurance/financial, transportation), family problems, emotional problems, spiritual/religious concerns, and physical problems, as well as citing “other” problems not included in the list. The thermometer should be filled out by the patient and brought to each visit with the care team.

All patients with cancer experience some level of distress, and these new tools will help patients deal with their concerns. It is important to address distress because, regardless of disease stage, distress affects mental and psychosocial well-being, and is a risk factor for nonadherence and uncontrolled disease. Distress can also have a significant impact on a patient’s overall survival.

“The NCCN Distress Thermometer is the most widely used and most well-validated tool to assess distress,” said Teresa DeShields, PhD, Psychologist, Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. In 2016, the NCCN recommended using this tool at every visit, “but that was aspirational,” she said.

The 2017 NCCN Guidelines for Patients incorporate physical factors that contribute to distress.

“The new guidelines acknowledge that distress is not just psychological but can stem from physical factors as well. Distress is related to quality of life and linked to survival,” Dr DeShields emphasized. Physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression, can drive distress. Symptoms of disease and those of distress can be difficult to tease out, she said. For example, loss of appetite or sleeplessness can be symptoms of both the disease and distress.

“This guideline and the tools encourage patient reporting of distress. We want them to speak up. Patients with cancer tend to underreport their symptoms and problems. There is no biomarker or test for distress. If a patient doesn’t speak up, then we can’t be of help,” Dr DeShields continued.

“These new guidelines are fantastic!” said Ruben Mesa, MD, Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ. Dr Mesa was present at a press conference at the NCCN 22nd Annual Conference where the new patient guideline was unveiled.

“Now we have to get patients and providers to use these materials. Providers can order these materials and give them to patients. Providers have to make a push to encourage patients to speak up about their problems,” Dr Mesa said.

Related Items
FDA On In Vitro Diagnostics, Vaping; Cost of Novel Treatments
Web Exclusives published on October 15, 2019 in FDA Updates, In the News, NCCN
Reduced-Intensity Chemotherapy for Frail Elderly Patients with Advanced Gastroesophageal Cancer
Phoebe Starr
TON - October 2019, Vol 12, No 5 published on October 7, 2019 in Geriatric Cancer
Fixed-Duration Venetoclax plus Obinutuzumab New Standard of Care for Front-Line Treatment of Patients with CLL and Comorbidities
Phoebe Starr
TON - October 2019, Vol 12, No 5 published on October 7, 2019 in Leukemia
MONALEESA-7 Sets New Standard of Care for Premenopausal Women with Advanced Breast Cancer
Phoebe Starr
TON - August 2019, Vol 12, No 4 published on August 6, 2019 in Breast Cancer
Studies Show ACA Reduces Disparities and Increases Access to Earlier Diagnosis and Treatment
Phoebe Starr
TON - August 2019, Vol 12, No 4 published on August 6, 2019 in ASCO
Assessment of Opioid Misuse and Abuse Should Be Part of Cancer Pain Management
Wayne Kuznar
TON - June 2019, Vol 12, No 3 published on June 17, 2019 in Pain Management, NCCN
Expert Panel Discusses Access to CAR T-Cell Therapy
TON - June 2019, Vol 12, No 3 published on June 17, 2019 in NCCN
Osimertinib plus Savolitinib Promising for Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer with MET-Driven Resistance
Phoebe Starr
TON - June 2019, Vol 12, No 3 published on June 17, 2019 in Lung Cancer
High Tumor Mutation Burden Predictive Biomarker for Survival in Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Phoebe Starr
TON - June 2019, Vol 12, No 3 published on June 17, 2019 in Lung Cancer
Gilteritinib a New Standard of Care for Relapsed or Refractory AML with FLT3 Mutation
Phoebe Starr
TON - June 2019, Vol 12, No 3 published on June 17, 2019 in Leukemia
Last modified: September 9, 2019