The attitudes of cancer patients and their families toward the disclosure of terminal illness

Young Ho Yun, Chang Geol Lee, Si Young Kim, Sang Wook Lee, Due Seog Heo, Jun Suk Kim, Keun Seok Lee, Young Seon Hong, Jung Suk Lee, Chang Hoon You

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132 Scopus citations


Purpose: To ascertain the attitude of cancer patients and their families toward disclosure of terminal illness to the patient. Patients and Methods: We constructed a questionnaire that included demographic and clinical information and delivered it to 758 consecutive individuals (433 cancer patients and 325 families that have a relative with cancer) at seven university hospitals and one national cancer center in Korea. Results: 380 cancer patients and one member from each of 281 families that have a relative with cancer completed the questionnaire. Cancer patients were more likely than family members to believe that patients should be informed of the terminal illness (96.1% v 76.9%; P < .001). Fifty percent of the family members and 78.3% of the patients thought that the doctor in charge should be the one who informs the patient. Additionally, 71.7% of the patients and 43.6% of the family members thought that patients should be informed immediately after the diagnosis. Stepwise multiple logistic regression indicated that the patient group was more likely than the family group to want the patient to be informed of the terminal illness (odds ratio [OR], 9.76; 95% CI, 4.31 to 22.14), by the doctor (OR, 4.00; 95% CI, 2.61 to 6.11), and immediately after the diagnosis (OR, 3.64; 95% CI, 2.45 to 5.41). Conclusion: Our findings indicated that most cancer patients want to be informed if their illness is terminal, and physicians should realize that the patient and the family unit may differ in their attitude toward such a disclosure. Our results also reflect the importance of how information is given to the patient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-314
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004

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