Telling people that they have cancer has a great impact on their lives, so many doctors are concerned about how they should inform patients about a cancer diagnosis and its prognosis. We conducted a general population survey in Japan to investigate people's preferences on receiving this information. There were no significant differences in respondents' preferences according to the seriousness of the cancer. Full disclosure of the diagnosis was preferred by 86.1% of the respondents, while 2.7% wanted non-disclosure. As for the initial provision of information, the majority preferred partial disclosure concerning the prospects of complete recovery (64.5%) and the expected length of survival (64.1%). Those who responded negatively to the statement, "If I am close to the end of my life, I want to be informed of the fact so I can choose my own way of life", were more likely to want non-disclosure on diagnosis. The results suggest that, at the first opportunity of providing information, a disclosure policy of giving patients full details of their diagnosis and some information on prognosis can satisfy the preferences of most patients. Contrary to popular belief, the seriousness of the cancer and people's demographic characteristics displayed little impact in this study.
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