Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 December 2003
Objective: Cachexia is a problematic wasting syndrome experienced by some cancer patients that can lead to early death in these patients. The purpose of the present study was to examine the criterion validity and sensitivity and specificity of two single items from a depression scale to rapidly screen patients in ambulatory oncology clinics for cancer-related nutritional risk and cachexia.
Methods: A chart review was conducted of 50 randomly selected patient profiles. Patients' responses to item 5 (“I eat as much as I used to”) and item 7 (“I notice I am losing weight”) of the Zung Self Rating Depression Scale (ZSDS) were compared against the Scored Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) as well as to Body Mass Index (BMI) scores and weight at two time periods.
Results: Item 5 of the ZSDS was significantly related to initial weight (F3,45 = 6.06, p < 0.001), weight at 6-month follow-up (F3,27 = 4.16, p < 0.05), BMI score (F3,46 = 2.89, p < 0.05), and nutritional risk on the PG-SGA (F3,45 = 5.80, p < 0.01). Item 7 of the ZSDS was only a significant predictor of nutritional risk as measured by the PG-SGA (F3,46 = 6.01, p < 0.01). When the two items were combined to form a two-item scale, it maintained the individual items' significant relationship to the PG-SGA (F1,48 = 13.99, p < 0.001). Using this as the criterion for identifying nutritionally at-risk patients, the two-item screen yields a sensitivity of 50% and specificity of 88%.
Significance of the research: It is concluded that a single item or a combination of two items can yield a reliable initial screen for identifying patients who might be at nutritional risk for the development of cachexia. Further study is needed in prospective trials to further explore the utility of these items.