OBJECTIVE: In line with screening guidelines, cancer survivors were consecutively screened on depressive symptoms (as part of standard care), with those reporting elevated levels of symptoms offered psychological care as part of a trial. Due to the low uptake, no conclusions could be drawn about the interventions' efficacy. Given the trial set-up (following screening guidelines and strict methodological quality criteria), we believe that this observational study reporting the flow of participation, reasons for and characteristics associated with non-participation, adds to the debate about the feasibility and effiency of screening guidelines.
METHODS: 2,608 medium- to long-term cancer survivors were consecutively screened on depressive symptoms using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Those with moderate depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 ≥10) were contacted and informed about the trial. Patient flow and reasons for non-participation were carefully monitored.
RESULTS: 1937 survivors (74.3%) returned the questionnaire, with 147 (7.6%) reporting moderate depressive symptoms. Of this group, 49 survivors (33.3%) were ineligible, including 26 survivors (17.7%) already receiving treatment and another 44 survivors (30.0%) reporting no need for treatment. Only 25 survivors (1.0%) participated in the trial.
CONCLUSION: Of the approached survivors for screening, only 1% was eligible and interested in receiving psychological care as part of our trial. Four reasons for non-participation were: non-response to screening, low levels of depressive symptoms, no need or already receiving care. Our findings question whether to spend the limited resources in psycho-oncological care on following screening guidelines and the efficiency of using consecutive screening for trial recruitment in cancer survivors.