, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1503-1507
Date: 17 Jan 2013

Clinic-based depression screening in lung cancer patients using the PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 depression questionnaires: a pilot study

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This study aims to validate the ability to perform depression screening with the patient health questionnaire (PHQ)-2 and PHQ-9 depression modules in a busy, outpatient practice, and to evaluate the prevalence of depression among lung cancer outpatients at our institution.


In 2010, 64 patients in a thoracic malignancy clinic completed the Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Patients endorsing either one or both items were then given the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, a nine-item depression assessment tool. Patients with mild or worse depression were offered a referral to a mental health care provider.


Eighteen of 64 patients (28 %) endorsed one or both items on the PHQ-2. Thirteen of 18 patients with a positive PHQ-2 screen completed the PHQ-9, with mean score of 10.2 (SD 3.91), suggesting moderate depression. PHQ-9 item 4, evaluating fatigue, was positive in 12 patients, and PHQ-9 item 9, evaluating suicidal ideation, was never reported. Only 1 of 18 patients with a positive PHQ-2 screen was being followed by a psychiatrist, and no patient accepted a new referral to a mental health provider.


The PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 modules are an effective means of depression screening in a busy, outpatient clinic. A high prevalence of depression was reported; yet, suicidal ideation was not reported. Depression severity ranged from mild to severe. The most endorsed PHQ-9 item was fatigue, although it is uncertain if this reflects a symptom of depression, a sequela of lung cancer itself, or both. The lung cancer patients in this sample who reported depression were unlikely to receive mental health services.