As part of a multi-centred study evaluating a communication skills training model for clinicians, we collected information preferences using an adaptation of Cassileth's Information Needs questionnaire from a heterogeneous sample of 2331 patients. Results showed that 87% (2027) wanted all possible information, both good and bad news and 98% (2203) preferred to know whether or not their illness was cancer. Cross tabulation of responses revealed no significant differences in information preferences for tumour site or treatment aims but did show an effect of age and sex. The few 58/440 (13.2%) patients who stated that in general they preferred to leave disclosure of details up to the doctor, tended to be older patients more than 70 years of age (chi square = 26.01, df = 2, P< 0.0001), although paradoxically they still wanted to know certain specific details. In comparison to men women preferred to know the specific name of the illness (chi square = 4.9, df = 1, P< 0.02) and what were all the possible treatments (chi square = 8.26, df = 1, P< 0.004). The results from this very large sample provide conclusive evidence that the vast majority of patients with cancer want a great deal of specific information concerning their illness and treatment. Failure to disclose such information on the grounds that significant numbers of patients prefer not to know is untenable.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.