Patient-Reported Distress in Myelodysplastic Syndromes and Its Association With Clinical Outcomes: A Retrospective Cohort Study

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Background: NCCN defines distress as a multifactorial, unpleasant emotional experience of a psychological nature that may interfere with patients' ability to cope with cancer symptoms and treatment. Patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are at risk for distress due to the largely incurable nature of this hematopoietic malignancy and its symptom burden, yet associations with clinical outcomes are unknown. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed patient-reported distress data from adult ambulatory patients with MDS visiting a single, tertiary care medical center from July 2013 to September 2015. Demographic, diagnostic, treatment, and comorbidity information were abstracted from records along with NCCN Distress Thermometer (DT) and Problem List (PL) scores. Survival was analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: We abstracted 376 DT scores (median, 1; range, 0–10) from 606 visits and 110 patients (median, 2 DT scores/patient; range, 1–16). NCCN Guidelines suggest that patients with DT scores ≥4 should be evaluated for referral to specialty services to address unmet needs. A total of 54 patients (49%) had at least 1 DT score ≥4 and 20 (18%) had 2 or more DT scores ≥4; 98 patients (89.1%) reported 1,379 problems during 23,613 person-days of follow-up (median, 4 problems/patient/visit; range, 1–23). The 5 most frequently reported problems were fatigue (181 times; 78 patients), pain (95 times; 46 patients), worry (80 times; 45 patients), sleep (78 times; 41 patients), and tingling hands/feet (68 times; 33 patients). After adjustment for risk stratification at diagnosis, a single point increase on the DT was associated with an increased risk of death (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.01–1.36). Conclusions: Patients with MDS experience a high burden of distress, and patient-reported distress is associated with clinical outcomes. Distress should be further studied as a prognostic variable and a marker of unmet needs in MDS.

Author contributions: Study concept and design: Troy, de Castro, Samsa, Abernethy, LeBlanc. Data acquisition: Troy, Pupa, LeBlanc. Data analysis: Troy. Initial manuscript draft: Troy. Critical revision of statistical analyses: Samsa. Data interpretation: All authors. Writing of manuscript: All authors. Correspondence: Thomas W. LeBlanc, MD, MA, MHS, Duke University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematological Malignancies and Cellular Therapy, Box 2715, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail: thomas.leblanc@duke.edu
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