Two simple questions to screen for depression among cancer patients

Research presented yesterday at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s 55th Annual Meeting indicates that a two-question screening test can effectively determine whether a patient is depressed. The brief screener was found to be more accurate than the Hopkins Symptom Checklist and the National Comprehensive Network Distress Thermometer.

The survey asks whether a patient in the last two weeks has experienced: 

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.

The study included 455 cancer patients at 37 cancer treatment centers around the United States who were receiving radiation treatment. 

The report, “Two Item Questionnaire Effectively Screens for Depression in Cancer Patients Receiving Radiotherapy,” was presented by William Small, Jr., MD, FASTRO, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology of Loyola University Medical Center. The Principal Investigator was Lynne Wagner, Ph.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Polaris Oncology Distress Management System includes these two questions to help a cancer care team determine whether their patients are experiencing depression, and then automatically refers depressed patients to the care they need based on their insurance status and zip code. Contact Polaris for further information and to request a free online demonstration of Polaris’s comprehensive distress management program.