To determine the predictors of distress in older patients with cancer.
Patients and Methods
Patients age ≥ 65 years with a solid tumor or lymphoma completed a questionnaire that addressed these geriatric assessment domains: functional status, comorbidity, psychological state, nutritional status, and social support. Patients self-rated their level of distress on a scale of zero to 10 using a validated screening tool called the Distress Thermometer. The relationship between distress and geriatric assessment scores was examined.
The geriatric assessment questionnaire was completed by 245 patients (mean age, 76 years; standard deviation [SD], 7 years; range, 65 to 95 years) with cancer (36% stage IV; 71% female). Of these, 87% also completed the Distress Thermometer, with 41% (n = 87) reporting a distress score of ≥ 4 on a scale of zero to 10 (mean score, 3; SD, 3; range, zero to 10). Bivariate analyses demonstrated an association between higher distress (≥ 4) and poorer physical function, increased comorbid medical conditions, poor eyesight, inability to complete the questionnaire alone, and requiring more time to complete the questionnaire. In a multivariate regression model based on the significant bivariate findings, poorer physical function (increased need for assistance with instrumental activities of daily living [P = .015] and lower physical function score on the Medical Outcomes Survey [P = .018]) correlated significantly with a higher distress score.
Significant distress was identified in 41% of older patients with cancer. Poorer physical function was the best predictor of distress. Further studies are needed to determine whether interventions that improve or assist with physical functioning can help to decrease distress in older adults with cancer.