TUESDAY, Dec. 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Eight in 10 oncologists report frequently seeing mental health distress (mostly anxiety and mood disorders) in their patients with cancer, according to Oncology Insights, a report published in December by Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions.

Cardinal Health conducted a web-based survey (September through November 2021) of more than 240 oncologists, representing a mix of community- and hospital-based practices.

The survey revealed that more than two-thirds of oncologists (68 percent) believed that early introduction of palliative care leads to better outcomes for patients with advanced cancer, yet 17 percent said they refer patients to palliative care at the time of metastatic disease diagnosis. Resistance among patients and caregivers (39 percent) and lack of dedicated palliative care staff (28 percent) were cited as the top barriers to delivering effective palliative care. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) said better tools are needed to educate patients with advanced cancer about how palliative care can enhance their quality of life. Just under half of oncologists (45 percent) said better data and predictive analytics are needed to help clinicians determine when to refer patients for palliative care.

“The fact that oncologists have high levels of awareness of mental health distress among patients with cancer is encouraging,” Bruce Feinberg, D.O., chief medical officer at Cardinal Health, writes in an accompanying viewpoint. “However, the responses about referrals and interventions indicate that oncologists still need to take additional steps to ensure that patients will consistently receive the mental health care they need.”

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