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Toru Okuyama, Koji Sugano, Shinsuke Iida, Takashi Ishida, Shigeru Kusumoto, and Tatsuo Akechi

Objectives: To investigate the screening performance for frailty of the Vulnerable Elders Survey-13 (VES-13) and the 2-step approach consisting of the VES-13 plus the anhedonia (loss of interest or pleasure) item from Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) among older patients with newly diagnosed cancer. Methods: This study involved 106 consecutive inpatients aged 65 years or older, newly diagnosed with malignant lymphoma or multiple myeloma, just before chemotherapy initiation. The participants were administered the VES-13, and also underwent a comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA), including for depression and 6 other geriatric conditions, using validated measures, just before initiation of chemotherapy. We defined frailty as the presence of 2 or more geriatric conditions as determined by the CGA. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was performed. The 2-step screening approach was examined by post hoc analysis. Results: The average age of the subjects was 74 years. Among the 106 subjects, 50% met the criteria for frailty. Using a cutoff score of 2 to 3 on the VES-13, a sensitivity and negative predictive value (NPV) of 72% of the screening tool was obtained for the condition of frailty. When the second step of the screening, consisting of the VES-13 plus anhedonia, was applied to the VES-13–negative patients, the sensitivity and NPV improved to 90% and 88%, respectively. Conclusions: The 2-step approach exhibited better screening performance for frailty among patients with cancer than existing methods. Large prospective studies are required in the future to confirm this ability of the 2-step approach.

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Toru Okuyama, Yoshiyuki Kizawa, Tatsuya Morita, Hiroya Kinoshita, Megumi Uchida, Asami Shimada, Akemi Shirado Naito, and Tatsuo Akechi

Background: The purpose of this study was to investigate the current status of distress screening implementation in Japanese designated cancer hospitals. Subjects and Methods: This was a cross-sectional observational study. Palliative care team representatives in all designated cancer hospitals in Japan completed an ad hoc questionnaire. Demographic data in 2014 were obtained from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan. Results: Of 422 institutions, 389 responded (92%) and data were obtained from 379 (90%). Approximately 90% of institutions had implemented a distress screening program at some level, and approximately 60% had just started screening. Among those institutions that screened, 77% provided individualized triage to specialized services within the institutions, whereas 60% did not routinely follow-up with patients who had positive screening results. The estimated median percentage of screened patients referred to palliative care teams was 0.4% in outpatient settings and 6.3% in inpatient settings. Although 68% of respondents perceived that screening was useful overall, they also reported difficulties when conducting screening with patients, reporting “no established effective treatment for problems screened” (66%), “patients complain it is difficult to express their distress using scales” (58%), and that it was “difficult to manage screened problems because of lack of time” (49%). Eight perceived barriers to implementing distress screening programs in hospitals were identified; a lack of human resources ranked highest. Conclusions: Implementation of distress screening in designated cancer hospitals in Japan has just begun. Policymakers should acknowledge that screening can be beneficial for patients when it is implemented with appropriate resources and established methods.