A simple two-question survey can accurately identify cancer patients for major depression, according to a new study.
The findings, presented at a meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, could provide a quicker and easier alternative the standard nine-question test now given to cancer patients.
"We hope this will prompt more centers to screen for depression, and to refer patients for treatment when necessary."
The two-question survey simply asks whether, over the last two weeks, a patient has experienced:
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things.
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.
For each question, the patient can answer not at all (zero points); several days (one point); more than half the days (two points); or nearly every day (three points). A patient with a total of three or more points on both questions is considered to be at risk for being depressed.
The two-question survey is comprised of the first two questions of the standard nine-question Patient Health Questionnaire. Dr. Small's team found the two-question survey was just as accurate as the full nine-question survey in identifying patients with major depression.
The findings are based on an assessment of 455 cancer patients receiving radiation therapy at 37 medical centers in the United States. Sixteen percent screened positive for depression.
"We think the results of this large, nationwide trial will have a major impact on how cancer patients are screened for depression," Dr. Small said.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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