Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Assessment of depression and anxiety in adult cancer outpatients: a cross-sectional study

Nauman A Jadoon1*, Waqar Munir2, Mohammad A Shahzad1 and Zeshan S Choudhry1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Nishtar Medical College Hospital, Multan, Pakistan

2 Department of Radiotherapy and Oncology, Nishtar Medical College Hospital, Multan, Pakistan

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:594  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-594

Published: 29 October 2010



The prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders in cancer patients and its associated factors in Pakistan is not known. There is a need to develop an evidence base to help introduce interventions as untreated depression and anxiety can lead to significant morbidity. We assessed the prevalence of depression and anxiety among adult outpatients with and without cancer as well as the effect of various demographic, clinical and behavioral factors on levels of depression and anxiety in cancer patients.


This cross-sectional study was carried out in outpatient departments of Multan Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy and Nishtar Medical College Hospital, Multan. Aga Khan University Anxiety and Depression Scale (AKUADS) was used to define the presence of depression and anxiety in study participants. The sample consisted of 150 diagnosed cancer patients and 268 participants without cancer (control group).


The mean age of cancer patients was 40.85 years (SD = 16.46) and median illness duration was 5.5 months, while the mean age of the control group was 39.58 years (SD = 11.74). Overall, 66.0% of the cancer patients were found to have depression and anxiety using a cutoff score of 20 on AKUADS. Among the control group, 109 subjects (40.7%) had depression and anxiety. Cancer patients were significantly more likely to suffer from distress compared to the control group (OR = 2.83, 95% CI = 1.89-4.25, P = 0.0001). Performing logistic regression analysis showed that age up to 40 years significantly influenced the prevalence of depression and anxiety in cancer patients. There was no statistically significant difference between gender, marital status, locality, education, income, occupation, physical activity, smoking, cancer site, illness duration and mode of treatment, surgery related to cancer and presence of depression and anxiety. Cancers highly associated with depression and anxiety were gastrointestinal malignancies, chest tumors and breast cancer.


This study highlights high prevalence rates of depression and anxiety in cancer patients. Younger age was associated with a higher likelihood of meeting criteria for psychological morbidity. The findings support screening patients for symptoms of depression and anxiety as part of standard cancer care and referring those at a higher risk of developing psychological morbidity for appropriate care.