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Identifying suicidal symptoms in prostate cancer survivors using brief self-report

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Prostate cancer (PC) survivors are at elevated risk for completed suicide even many years post-treatment. Despite this risk, practical and efficient methods for assessing these symptoms have not been established. We sought to determine if suicidal symptoms could be effectively and efficiently identified in a cohort of PC survivors, and whether these men were receptive to emotional health interventions.


Six hundred fifty-six PC survivors, an average of 5 years post-diagnosis, completed eight self-report items about suicidal symptoms and behavior in the past 7 days, and 12 months, as well as medical utilization and interest in emotional health support.


Between 3.6 and 17.9 % of PC survivors endorsed a single suicidal ideation item, and denied all other ideation. All survivors who endorsed serious suicidal ideation/behavior also endorsed either passive or active ideation. 58.3 % of survivors denied any suicidal symptoms within the past week, but endorsed it within the past year. Most survivors had medical provider contact within the past year and were open to receiving information about emotional health interventions.


Suicidal ideation in PC survivors cannot be accurately evaluated using only a one-item screen, or by inquiring within a single time frame.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

In both research and clinical settings, the evaluation for suicidal ideation in PC survivors should utilize multiple questions, across several time periods. It is possible to skip queries about serious ideation/behavior if passive or active ideation is denied. Once identified, medical providers should refer these men to psychosocial providers who can offer emotional support.

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Conflict of interest

Eric S. Zhou, Jim C. Hu, Philip W. Kantoff, and Christopher J. Recklitis declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Recklitis.

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Zhou, E.S., Hu, J.C., Kantoff, P.W. et al. Identifying suicidal symptoms in prostate cancer survivors using brief self-report. J Cancer Surviv 9, 59–67 (2015).

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