Screening for depression in cancer patients receiving radiotherapy: Feasibility and identification of effective tools in the NRG Oncology RTOG 0841 trial.


Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Brief tools are needed to screen oncology outpatients for depressive symptoms. METHODS: Patients starting radiotherapy for the first diagnosis of any tumor completed distress screening tools, including the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), the 2-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer (NCCN-DT), and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL) (25-item version). Patients exceeding validated cutoff scores and a systematic sample of patients whose screening was negative completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) mood disorder modules via telephone. RESULTS: Four hundred sixty-three patients from 35 community-based radiation oncology sites and 2 academic radiation oncology sites were recruited. Sixty-six percent of the 455 eligible patients (n = 299) were women, and the eligible patients had breast (45%), gastrointestinal (11%), lung (10%), gynecologic (6%), or other cancers (27%). Seventy-five (16.5%) exceeded screening cutoffs for depressive symptoms. Forty-two of these patients completed the SCID. Another 37 patients whose screening was negative completed the SCID. Among the 79 patients completing the SCID, 8 (10.1%) met the criteria for major depression, 2 (2.5%) met the criteria for dysthymia, and 6 (7.6%) met the criteria for an adjustment disorder. The PHQ-2 demonstrated good psychometric properties for screening for mood disorders with a cutoff score of ≥3 (receiver operating characteristic area under the curve [AUC], 0.83) and was comparable to the PHQ-9 ( > 9; AUC = 0.85). The NCCN-DT did not detect depression (AUC = 0.59). CONCLUSIONS: The PHQ-2 demonstrated good psychometric properties for screening for mood disorders, which were equivalent to the PHQ-9 and superior to the NCCN-DT. These findings support using the PHQ-2 to identify patients in need of further assessment for depression, which has a low prevalence but is a clinically significant comorbidity. These findings could inform the implementation of distress screening accreditation standards. Cancer 2017;123:485-493. © 2016 American Cancer Society.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wagner, LI; Pugh, SL; Small, W; Kirshner, J; Sidhu, K; Bury, MJ; DeNittis, AS; Alpert, TE; Tran, B; Bloom, BF; Mai, J; Yeh, A; Sarma, K; Becker, M; James, J; Bruner, DW

Published Date

  • February 1, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 123 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 485 - 493

PubMed ID

  • 27861753

Pubmed Central ID

  • 27861753

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1097-0142

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/cncr.29969


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States