What circumstances lead to non-disclosure of cancer-related information in China? A qualitative study

Support Care Cancer. 2017 Mar;25(3):811-816. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3464-z. Epub 2016 Nov 10.


Background: Withholding information from cancer patients is a common practice in many Asian countries, including China, Japan, and Singapore, as well as in some Western countries, such as Spain, Greece, and Italy. Much research has investigated why doctors withhold information from cancer patients generally, both in the West and the East, but little research has been done on specifically why Chinese doctors withhold such information.

Methods: Three focus group interviews were conducted with a total of 16 oncologists in China. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and translated. Qualitative data were analyzed using systematic text condensation.

Results: The result of this study revealed numerous circumstances that can lead to non-disclosure of cancer-related information. Many of these circumstances have been described in previous studies about non-disclosure in other countries. We found two additional circumstances that have not been described in previous literature and might therefore expand our current knowledge about this phenomenon; they are contradiction between laws and fear for personal safety.

Conclusion: Numerous circumstances can lead to non-disclosure of cancer-related information. This study found two additional circumstances that might lead to non-disclosure. The findings of this study suggest further assessment and clarification about the laws that govern doctor-patient communication and that action should be taken to ensure safe working environments for Chinese oncologists.

Keywords: Cancer; Cultural differences; Non-disclosure; Qualitative study.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Access to Information / psychology*
  • Adult
  • China
  • Communication
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Truth Disclosure*