Depression Screening

In the first update since 2009, the U.S. Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) released new guidelines for screening and treating depression in adults. The new guidelines are applicable to patients aged 18 years or older and recommend depression screening for the entire general adult population. USPSTF has separate guidelines for adolescents and children

The adult guidelines specifically noted that patients with chronic illnesses or poor health status, such as those with cancer, have higher rates of depression, so as the primary point of contact for patients with cancer, oncology nurses should be especially vigilant with screening. Many oncology practices have already implemented depression screening protocols to meet similar standards for accreditation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

USPSTF recommended several common screening procedures, including a patient health questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales, and the Geriatric Depression Scale, for screening adults with potential depression. ONS’s Putting Evidence Into Practice resources list several nursing interventions that are recommended for practice or likely to be effective for depression in patients with cancer (see Figure 1). 

Ultimately, nurses will continue to monitor their patients for depressive risk factors and symptoms and act accordingly with the new guidelines. USPSTF noted that depression screening is low risk, with the potential benefit outweighing the costs of screening procedures. With a better focus on the adult population, it will be easier to address and treat depression in patients who need it.