Patterns and predictors of disclosure of a diagnosis of cancer

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Background:The value of talking (i.e. disclosing ones innermost thoughts and feelings) has been recognised as playing an important role in helping people work through their difficulties. Although disclosing a diagnosis of cancer has been identified to be one of the hardest aspects of having the disease, relatively little is known about the extent to which people talk about their diagnosis of cancer. This study aimed to identify disclosure patterns among patients with cancer and to determine the factors associated with disclosure.Methods:Patients (n= 120) who had received a diagnosis of either lung, colorectal or skin cancer completed a questionnaire assessing potential psychosocial predictors of disclosure.Results:Results indicated that the majority of patients (95%) found it helpful to disclose information and did so to a variety of social targets, with the highest levels of disclosure being reported to medical personnel (38% talked ‘very much’), followed by family members (24%) and then friends (12%). There were no differences in disclosure across cancer types, with the exception of patients with colorectal cancer who disclosed information more to nurses and other cancer patients. Men disclosed information more than women to some social targets. Dispositional openness (B= .233,p< 0.05) and treatment type (B= −.240,p< 0.01) were found to predict 13% of the variance in degree of disclosure.Conclusions:The results suggest that individual differences and social and clinical factors impact on disclosure and that medical professionals play an important role in the disclosure process. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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