Understanding care needs of cancer patients with depressive symptoms: The importance of patients' recognition of depressive symptoms

Esmée A. Bickel*, Anouk M. Auener, Adelita V. Ranchor, Joke Fleer, Maya J. Schroevers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective The majority of cancer patients with depressive symptoms does not perceive a need for psychological care. Reasons for this are still unclear. We examined the mediating role of cancer patients' perceptions of depressive symptoms in the relationship between depressive symptoms and perceived need for psychological care. Methods For this cross-sectional study, we recruited 127 Dutch cancer patients with moderate to severe levels of depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ]-9 >= 10) who did not receive professional psychological care. Depressive symptoms were measured with the PHQ-9 questionnaire, by using three different depression score operationalizations. We used mediation analyses to test the mediating role of patients' illness perceptions (measured with subscales of the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire) in the relation between depressive symptoms and need for care. Results Whilst results did not show significant direct associations between depressive symptoms and perceived need for psychological care, we found positive indirect effects of severity (B = 0.07, SE = 0.04, p < 0.02), meeting the DSM-5 diagnosis (B = 0.45, SE = 0.26, p < 0.02) and having relatively more affective symptoms (B = 2.37, SE = 1.10, p < 0.02) on need for care through the identity perception. Conclusions Including assessments of patients' recognition of depressive symptoms and their perceptions of depression treatment efficacy might improve depression screening in cancer patients by more accurately identifying those with a need for psychological care. Moreover, improving patients' knowledge and recognition of symptoms as being depressive symptoms might be a possible target point in increasing care needs and hereby optimizing the uptake of psychological care in cancer patients with depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Early online date10-Aug-2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022


  • cancer
  • common-sense model
  • depressive symptoms
  • illness perceptions
  • oncology
  • psychological care needs
  • psycho-oncology

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