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OBJECTIVE: To describe the problems reported by people with cancer and major depressive disorder as elicited before starting problem-solving therapy (PST). METHODS: Ninety-eight outpatients, with a variety of cancers who met criteria for major depression, received PST as part of a system of treatment called 'Depression Care for People with Cancer' within a randomized trial. During the first session of PST, each patient was asked to provide an exhaustive list of problems defined as 'anything that was bothering them'. A coding system, based on thematic content, was developed to categorize the problems listed. Each problem was then coded by two raters independently (κ=0.81). The resulting categories were organized into larger conceptual domains using a card-sorting task. RESULTS: Thirty-six problem categories were generated which were in turn organized into 11 larger conceptual domains. Patients reported problems in a mean of 9.2 different categories (range 3-21) and 5.7 domains (range 2-9). The most common problem categories were 'concerns about other people's well-being' (65%), 'problems in interpersonal relations' (61%), 'loss of interest' (56%), 'low mood' (55%), and 'cancer recurrence or relapse' (54%). CONCLUSIONS: People with cancer and major depression report a wide variety of problems that include, but go beyond concerns about, both cancer and depression. The large number of problems related to concerns about other people's well-being and difficulties in interpersonal relationships, stresses the importance of these topics to patients and should be given more weight in the assessment and management of depressed cancer patients.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





62 - 68


Activities of Daily Living, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Problem Solving, Quality of Life, Treatment Outcome