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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • disclosure;
  • illness beliefs;
  • India

Abstract

Objective

Non-disclosure of a cancer diagnosis is a common practice in many Asian cultures where family-based medical decision making is the norm. The present study sought to compare Indian cancer patients who were aware versus unaware of their cancer diagnosis on a range of patient characteristics, levels of psychological distress and illness perceptions.

Methods

A sample of 329 Indian cancer patients were interviewed about their understanding of their illness (to assess awareness of a cancer diagnosis) and administered the following measures: the modified Rotterdam Symptom Checklist, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Brief Illness Perceptions Questionnaire. Demographic and medical details were also obtained.

Results

Over half of the sample (54.1%) was unaware of their cancer diagnosis. A logistic regression analysis predicting perceived diagnostic disclosure indicated that awareness of a cancer diagnosis was associated with being involved in medical decisions, receiving multiple treatments, longer treatment durations, greater perceived understanding of one's illness (illness coherence) and citing a cause for one's illness.

Conclusions

The results highlight the importance of the context in which decisions about the patient's illness are made (e.g. by whom) as well as illness perceptions relating to patients' understanding of their illness. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.