Can a simple Test Accurately Screen Cancer Patients for Depression?

logo1267406_mdIn a new study presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s 55 Annual Meeting a researcher concluded that cancer patients can accurately be screened for major depression with a simple two-question survey. The two questions were: Whether, over the past two weeks, the patient had experienced: 1) Little interest or pleasure in doing things; and 2) Feeling down, depressed or hopeless. Foe each question the patient was given the option of not at all (o pints), several days (1 point), more than half the days (2 points), or nearly every day (3 points). If a patient scored a total of 3 points or more on both questions he/she was considered to be at risk for being depressed.

Four hundred fifty five cancer patients receiving radiation therapy in 37 centers in the United States were included in the study. All were surveyed before or within 2 weeks of receiving their first radiation treatment and 16% screened positive for depression. For comparison. patients screening positiv3e for depression were administered an in-depth telephone interview using the SCID that is considered the gold standard for diagnosing depression. In addition, a random sample of those screening negative for depression received this telephone interview.

Results showed that the two question interview was as predictive of depression as the full nine question scale from which it was taken. Results also showed that the new 2 question interview more accurate than two other screening tests researchers admin9istered–the Hopkins Symptom Checklist, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer. The study also found that 78% of the centers used routinely screen patients for depression at the radiation therapy center and 51% of these are at the initial visit. Sixty eight percent of the facilities offered mental health  services but 67% had only social workers, 17% had psychologists, and 22% had psychiatrists. The research-ers said “We think the results of this large, nationwide trial will have a major impact on how cancer patients are screened for depression,.

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