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Keywords:

  • cancer patients;
  • Nigeria;
  • information needs;
  • diagnosis;
  • prognosis

Abstract

Objective

The attitudes of cancer patients from southeast Nigeria on disclosure of cancer information were studied to ascertain their information needs and what information was disclosed to them by their physicians.

Methods

Structured questionnaires were administered on all consenting cancer patients that were managed at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu between July and October 2011. The data collected were analysed with Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 18.

Results

Two hundred and forty-four patients participated in the study. Ninety-five per cent of the participants wanted to know the nature of their diagnosis, but 76.7% admitted to being informed of the diagnosis by their doctors. Nearly 54% of participants will like to be informed of a bad prognosis, but only 1.8% was informed. The word cancer was used to disclose the diagnosis to 69.4% of the patients, but 108 (44.3%) patients did not have any idea what cancer meant, 39.8% knew it as an incurable disease whereas 8.6% described it as a tumour or abnormal growth. Patient factors that significantly improved the disclosure of diagnostic information were education (p = 0.044) and site of the cancer (p = 0.043).

Conclusions

Most of the surveyed cancer patients in University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu desire to know the truth about the diagnosis of their disease, and more than 50% of them desire to know when the disease becomes terminal and death is imminent. Physicians in southeast Nigeria should consider the information needs of the individual patients and tailor their disclosure practices to meet these individual needs. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.