Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1503–1507

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

  • J. Michael Randall
  • Rochelle Voth
  • Erin Burnett
  • Lyudmila Bazhenova
  • Wayne A. Bardwell
Short Communication



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.


Lung cancer Oncology Depression Screening Patient health questionnaire PHQ 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Michael Randall
    • 1
  • Rochelle Voth
    • 2
  • Erin Burnett
    • 1
  • Lyudmila Bazhenova
    • 1
  • Wayne A. Bardwell
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Moores Cancer CenterUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Patient and Family Support Service, Moores Cancer CenterUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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