The concept of witholding a cancer diagnosis from the patient is a universal phenomenon. It is not only a dilemna of Filipino doctors and those from conservative societies but even of doctors from progressive and liberal societies.
Many studies have been done to investigate patients’ preferences about being told the truth about their diagnosis. Surprisingly, a significant proportion of patients wanted to be told the truth about their diagnosis. Studies have been done among Asian, European, Middle Eastern and American patients showing similar results.
It is the practice in Japan that the diagnosis is almost never told directly to the patient but to the family. However, a study conducted by Ruhnke GW, et al. among Japanese patients found that even in this conservative society, 42% of the patients agreed that they should be told of the diagnosis and should be asked whether the family should be told.
A study done by Al-Amri AM among patients in Saudi Arabia showed that 99% of the patients wanted to know their diagnosis.
In the Philippines, a study was done by Ngelangel, CA, et al found that 97% of patients indicated that they should be told directly of the cancer diagnosis.
Despite having found that many patients would like to be told the truth, we must realize that there exists a population of patients who do not want to be told and therefore, we cannot barge into a patient’s room insisting that the patient be told right away.
We must remember this: There are patients who want to know and there are patients who do not want to know.
So how do we go about it?………