Geriatric assessment is superior to oncologists' clinical judgement in identifying frailty

Br J Cancer. 2017 Aug 8;117(4):470-477. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.202. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Background: Frailty is a syndrome associated with increased vulnerability and an important predictor of outcomes in older cancer patients. Systematic assessments to identify frailty are seldom applied, and oncologists' ability to identify frailty is scarcely investigated.

Methods: We compared oncologists' classification of frailty (onc-frail) based on clinical judgement with a modified geriatric assessment (mGA), and investigated associations between frailty and overall survival. Patients ⩾70 years referred for medical cancer treatment were eligible. mGA-frailty was defined as impairment in at least one of the following: daily activities, comorbidity, polypharmacy, physical function or at least one geriatric syndrome (cognitive impairment, depression, malnutrition, falls).

Results: Three hundred and seven patients were enroled, 288 (94%) completed the mGA, 286 (93%) were rated by oncologists. Median age was 77 years, 56% had metastases, 85% performance status (PS) 0-1. Overall, 104/286 (36%) were onc-frail and 140/288 (49%) mGA-frail, the agreement was fair (kappa value 0.30 (95% CI 0.19; 0.41)), and 67 mGA-frail patients who frequently had localised disease, good PS and received curative treatment, were missed by the oncologists. Only mGA-frailty was independently prognostic for survival (HR 1.61, 95% CI 1.14; 2.27; P=0.007).

Conclusions: Systematic assessment of geriatric domains is needed to aid oncologists in identifying frail patients with poor survival.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / complications
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Polypharmacy
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate