In screening for mood disorders among patients with cancer, the 2-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) diagnostic tool demonstrates effective psychometric properties, according to a study published in Cancer.1

Researchers evaluated 455 patients who underwent the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer (NCCN-DT), the 25-item Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL), and the PHQ-2.

Forty-five percent of patients had breast cancer, 11% had gastrointestinal cancer, 10% had lung cancer, 6% had gynecologic cancer, and 27% had another form of cancer.

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Forty-two patients who exceeded screening cutoffs and 37 patients who had a negative screening underwent the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) mood disorder modules over the telephone. Among these observed patients, 8 were considered to have major depression, 2 had dysthymia, and 6 had an adjustment disorder.

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The PHQ-2 diagnostic tool demonstrated good psychometric properties in mood disorder screening for those patients with a cutoff of at least 3. The cutoff for the PHQ-9 was greater than 9, and the NCCN-DT did not detect depression.


  1. Wagner LI, Pugh SL, Small Jr W, et al. Screening for depression in cancer patients receiving radiotherapy: Feasibility and identification of effective tools in the NRG Oncology RTOG 0841 trial. Cancer. 2016 Nov 10. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29969 [Epub ahead of print]