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  • Author: Kristine A. Donovan x
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Kristine A. Donovan and Paul B. Jacobsen

A 2005 survey of NCCN Member Institutions was among the first studies to evaluate the extent to which key elements of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Distress Management were being implemented as part of routine clinical practice. This study seeks to characterize current implementation of the guidelines by NCCN Member Institutions 7 years after the original study. Institutional representatives appointed to the NCCN Distress Management Panel were asked to complete an online survey in June 2012. The survey was similar to the 2005 survey, except that it solicited additional details about screening procedures. The survey was completed by representatives from 20 of 22 NCCN Member Institutions (91%). (Note: In this calculation, 1 consortium cancer cancer was counted as 2 NCCN Member Institutions.) Responses indicate that routine screening for distress is being conducted at 70% of institutions, with 25% screening inpatients and 60% screening outpatients. Among institutions screening outpatients, 50% screen all outpatients and 50% screen only certain subgroups of outpatients. In terms of method, 85% of institutions conducting screening use a patient self-report measure either alone or in combination with an interview; the Distress Thermometer is used at 59% of institutions that use a self-report measure. Findings show modest progress since 2005 in implementing guideline recommendations regarding distress screening, with a 7% increase in institutions conducting any routine screening and a 10% increase in institutions screening all outpatients routinely. Greater progress is evident in the use of self-report measures as part of screening, with a 23% increase in their use alone or in combination with an interview.

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Kristine A. Donovan, Teresa L. Deshields, Cheyenne Corbett and Michelle B. Riba

The first NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for Distress Management were published in 1999. Since then, a number of other organizations have advocated for distress screening. Previous surveys of distress screening showed modest progress in implementation of the NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management by NCCN Member Institutions (MIs); this review examined whether further progress has been made. Representatives appointed to the NCCN Distress Management Panel or their designee were asked to complete an online survey in the summer of 2018. The survey was developed based on similar surveys performed in 2005 and 2012 and a survey of psychosocial staffing conducted in NCCN MIs in 2012. New items solicited details about triaging, rescreening, formal screening protocols, and tracking of distressed patients. The survey was completed by representatives from 23 of 27 NCCN MIs (85%). Among the responding institutions, 20 (87%) currently conduct routine screening for distress and 3 are piloting routine screening. All respondents reported use of a self-report measure to screen for distress, with the Distress Thermometer most often used. A total of 70% of respondents rescreen patients for distress and 83% reported having a formal distress screening protocol in place. Once triaged, 65% of institutions who routinely screen for distress track clinical contacts and referrals; 70% track rates of adherence to screening protocols. Findings suggest wide acceptance and implementation of the NCCN Guidelines. Most respondents reported the existence of a formal distress screening protocol, with routine tracking of clinical contacts and referrals and rates of protocol adherence. Clinical experience and the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer accreditation standard for cancer centers appear to have resulted in greater adoption and implementation of the guidelines, but considerable opportunities for improvement remain.

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Young D. Chang, Jae-Woo Jung, Ritika Oberoi-Jassal, Jongphil Kim, Sahana Rajasekhara, Meghan Haas, Joshua Smith, Vijay Desai, Kristine A. Donovan and Diane Portman

Background: Information about the frequency of cannabinoid use and the clinical characteristics of its users in oncology supportive care is limited. This study explored associations between cannabinoid use and cancer-related clinical characteristics in a cancer population. Patients and Methods: This retrospective review included 332 patients who had a urine drug test (UDT) for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) together with completion of an Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and cannabinoid history questionnaire on the same day that urine was obtained during 1 year in the supportive care clinic. Results: The frequency of positive results for THC in a UDT was 22.9% (n=76). Significant statistical differences were seen between THC-positive and THC-negative patients for age (median of 52 [lower quartile, 44; upper quartile, 56] vs 58 [48; 67] years; P<.001), male sex (53.9% vs 39.5%; P=.034), and past or current cannabinoid use (65.8% vs 26.2%; P<.001). Statistical significance was observed in ESAS items between the THC-positive and THC-negative groups for pain (7 [lower quartile, 5; upper quartile; 8] vs 5 [3; 7]; P=.001), nausea (1 [0; 3] vs 0 [0; 3]; P=.049), appetite (4 [2; 7] vs 3 [0; 5.75]; P=.015), overall well-being (5.5 [4; 7] vs 5 [3; 6]; P=.002), spiritual well-being (5 [2; 6] vs 3 [1; 3]; P=.015), insomnia (7 [5; 9] vs 4 [2; 7]; P<.001), and total ESAS (52 [34; 66] vs 44 [29; 54]; P=.001). Among patients who reported current or past cannabinoid use, THC-positive patients had higher total scores and scores for pain, appetite, overall well-being, spiritual well-being, and insomnia than THC-negative patients. Conclusions: Patients with cancer receiving outpatient supportive care who had positive UDT results for THC had higher symptom severity scores for pain, nausea, appetite, overall and spiritual well-being, and insomnia compared with their THC-negative counterparts. These results highlight potential opportunities to improve palliative care.

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Michelle B. Riba, Kristine A. Donovan, Barbara Andersen, IIana Braun, William S. Breitbart, Benjamin W. Brewer, Luke O. Buchmann, Matthew M. Clark, Molly Collins, Cheyenne Corbett, Stewart Fleishman, Sofia Garcia, Donna B. Greenberg, Rev. George F. Handzo, Laura Hoofring, Chao-Hui Huang, Robin Lally, Sara Martin, Lisa McGuffey, William Mitchell, Laura J. Morrison, Megan Pailler, Oxana Palesh, Francine Parnes, Janice P. Pazar, Laurel Ralston, Jaroslava Salman, Moreen M. Shannon-Dudley, Alan D. Valentine, Nicole R. McMillian and Susan D. Darlow

Distress is defined in the NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management as a multifactorial, unpleasant experience of a psychologic (ie, cognitive, behavioral, emotional), social, spiritual, and/or physical nature that may interfere with the ability to cope effectively with cancer, its physical symptoms, and its treatment. Early evaluation and screening for distress leads to early and timely management of psychologic distress, which in turn improves medical management. The panel for the Distress Management Guidelines recently added a new principles section including guidance on implementation of standards of psychosocial care for patients with cancer.