(HealthDay News) — For patients with cancer receiving radiotherapy, a simple screening evaluation can detect major depression, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology, held from Sept. 22 to 25 in Atlanta.

William Small Jr., M.D., from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chicago, and colleagues examined the feasibility of depression screening for 463 patients receiving radiotherapy for cancer at 37 sites. Screening was performed before or within two weeks of treatment, and included the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9, with embedded PHQ-2) and the single-item National Comprehensive Cancer Network-Distress Thermometer (NCCN-DT).

The researchers found that all eligible patients (nine were deemed ineligible) completed the screening questionnaire and 16 percent screened positive for depression symptoms. Nine percent of patients screened positive with PHQ-9, while 7.9 percent screened positive with PHQ-2; both demonstrated good psychometric properties for identifying major depressive episode (receiver operating characteristic area under the curve, 0.84 for both). Detection was inadequate with the NCCN-DT. Patients were routinely screened at the radiotherapy facilities of most participating sites (78 percent), with about half of sites (51 percent) conducting screening at the initial visit.

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“We found that a two-question survey can effectively screen for depression,” Small said in a statement. “We hope this will prompt more centers to screen for depression, and to refer patients for treatment when necessary.”

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