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J Family Med Prim Care. 2012 Jul;1(2):103-8. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.104962.

Attitudes of nepalese medical students toward telling patients a diagnosis of cancer.

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Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BH UDRH), University of Sydney, PO Box 457, Broken Hill, NSW, Australia.
Department of General Practice and Emergency Medicine, BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan, Nepal.



Patient-centered communication teaching generally encourages doctors to inform patients of cancer diagnoses. In many countries, including Nepal, it is usually the patient's family that is informed. Much of the evidence about patient preferences is from western studies. The objectives of this study are: To discover the attitudes of medical students and patients in Nepal toward disclosing a cancer diagnosis; and to identify the reasons for these attitudes.


A cross-sectional survey was administered to medical students and patients in a teaching hospital in Nepal. The participants were asked about their attitudes toward and reasons for informing patients of a cancer diagnosis. The data were analyzed to compare students' and patients' attitudes and to look for differences between the first and fourth year students.


Fifty-four percent of the students would inform a patient even if the cancer was incurable, 6% would inform only if curable, and 40% would inform the family instead. Sixty-nine percent of the students and 51% of the patients wanted a close relative informed, even if the relative was incurable (P = 0.0016). There was no significant difference between students (83%) and patients (78%) wanting to be informed of their own diagnosis. The most important reasons for students not informing the patients were fears of loss of hope and of causing depression.


The results confirmed the diverse attitudes about informing a cancer diagnosis to patients, in Nepal. Students wanted more information for themselves than they felt patients should be given. This information could enlighten the practice of doctors in Nepal and other similar cultures, as well as guide the communication training of future doctors.


Cancer; Nepal; communication; medical students

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