• cancer;
  • screening;
  • oncology;
  • distress;
  • depression;
  • acceptance of treatment;
  • desire for help


Objectives: Despite documented high rates of psychological distress, it is not clear how to identify those who are willing to accept help. The aim of this study was to investigate whether asking patients receiving chemotherapy if they want help with emotional problems is valuable and to investigate the type of help they want.

Methods: Patients attending a chemotherapy suite were asked to complete the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Brief Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) and the Emotion Thermometers tools. Results were compared with a single question on desire for help.

Results: In this study, 128 patients completed questionnaires for distress, depression, anxiety and desire for help at initial interview. Only one in five unselected patients had a perceived need for help, and in distressed patients only 36% expressed a desire for help. The addition of the help question to the two questions (PHQ-2) about mood and interest improved the ability to rule-in depression by increasing the specificity. However, by addition of this question, sensitivity was significantly reduced. Desire for help was modestly associated with severity of distress, anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: The addition of a help question appears to have limited value in screening for psychological symptoms, but it may highlight those who are willing to accept addition support. Clinicians should attempt to offer a range of psychosocial interventions that will be acceptable to patients with distress. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.