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J Clin Oncol. 2010 Jan 10;28(2):348-56. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.0201. Epub 2009 Dec 7.

Are gold standard depression measures appropriate for use in geriatric cancer patients? A systematic evaluation of self-report depression instruments used with geriatric, cancer, and geriatric cancer samples.

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  • 1Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 641 Lexington Ave, 7th floor, New York, NY 10022, USA. nelsonc@mskcc.org



Geriatric issues in cancer are becoming prominent. Depression is a significant concern for both the elderly and patients with cancer, yet identifying depression in these patients is difficult and often leads to under-recognition. We conducted a systematic review to determine which depression instruments are appropriate for use in geriatric patients with cancer.


We identified the most commonly used self-report depression instruments. We then used the criteria established in the US Food and Drug Administration Draft Guidance on Patient-Reported Outcome Measures to determine the extent of validation evidence of these measures in geriatric cancer populations. Finally, we determined which instruments captured depressive symptoms that are common among elderly patients with cancer.


Eight measures were selected as the most commonly used instruments. These were the Beck Depression Inventory-II, Brief Symptom Inventory-18, Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, Geriatric Depression Scale-15, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, Profile of Mood States-Short Form, and Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale. Many have been validated for use with geriatric adults and patients with cancer; however, data addressing content validity and responder definition were lacking. To date, there is no validation information for geriatric patients with cancer. Furthermore, symptom profile analysis revealed that these measures do not identify many symptoms signaling depression in geriatric patients with cancer.


The validation evidence for use of common depression instruments in geriatric patients with cancer is lacking. This, and the possibility that these measures may not assess common depressive symptoms in geriatric patients with cancer, questions the adequacy of these scales in this population.

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