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Vulnerability Tool Identifies Breast Cancer Survivors at Risk for Functional Decline

By Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine explored the use of the Vulnerable Elders Survey (VES-13) in predicting functional decline and death within 1 year of breast cancer treatment.

The VES-13 has 13 questions about perceptions of health and ability to lift heavy objects, grasp small objects, write, walk a quarter of a mile, work around the house, go shopping, manage money, and perform other activities of independent living. Lower scores indicate higher reported levels of functioning, whereas higher scores suggest declining function.

Participants were aged 65 years or older with newly diagnosed stage I-III breast cancer. They completed the VES-13 at baseline prior to starting neoadjuvant/adjuvant treatment and again at 1 year.

In the group of 206 women enrolled in the study, 34 (22%) functionally declined, and 7 women died. The estimated risk of functional decline/death rose from 23% for women with a VES-13 score of 3 to 76% for those with a VES-13 score of 10.

Researchers concluded that the women with the highest scores on the VES-13 were most likely to experience decline; therefore, the VES-13 may have some clinical utility in identifying women at risk for functional decline. Study findings are available here.
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