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Screening for depression in palliative cancer patients attending a pain and symptom control clinic

  • Rami A. Sela (a1)

Objective: Depression in palliative care patients is often underrecognized. Screening can increase case recognition. The aims of this study were to assess the prevalence of depression in palliative cancer patients attending a pain and symptom control clinic and to investigate the validity and utility of a depression visual analogue scale in detecting depression in the advanced cancer outpatient population.

Method: One hundred and thirty-two oncology outpatients who came for consultation at a multidisciplinary pain and symptom control clinic were asked and agreed to complete the Brief Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (BZSDS; Dugan et al., 1998) and depression visual analogue scale (DVAS).

Results: The majority of participants (72%) indicated clinically significant depressive symptoms according to the BZSDS (21% in the “mild” depressive symptoms range, 32% in the “moderate” range, and 19% in the “severe” range). Participants indicated low endorsement rates of items related to overt manifestation of depression (e.g., sadness, tearfulness, irritability, and suicide ideation). The DVAS showed high correlation with the BZSDS (r = .82) and is a potentially useful screening instrument for detecting depressive disorder in palliative care cancer patients.

Significance of results: The results of the study underline the importance of routine screening to detect depressive disorder in palliative care patients to improve their quality of care. The depression visual analogue scale was found to be an effective simple screening tool, easy to administer and use.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Dr. Rami Sela, Ph.D., Department of Psychosocial and Spiritual Resources, Cross Cancer Institute, 11560 University Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 1Z2, Canada. E-mail:
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
  • URL: /core/journals/palliative-and-supportive-care
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