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Cultural implications for disclosure of diagnosis and prognosis toward terminally ill cancer patients in China: A literature review

, Silja Zhang, Stephen Mason, Frank Elsner
Palliative and Supportive Care pp 1-7; doi:10.1017/s1478951521000535

Abstract: Objective Health professionals in China tend to avoid open communication with terminally ill cancer patients concerning their diagnosis and prognosis. This review aims to explore Chinese cultural beliefs and attitudes concerning disclosure and death among health professionals and cancer patients in China and to investigate preferences of terminally ill cancer patients for a “good death.” Method A narrative literature review was conducted in May 2020 on MEDLINE, EMBASE, and WEB OF SCIENCE to include all studies with clear study design which presented its own study data or referred to data within underlying studies, published between January 2000 and May 2020, having cancer patients and/or healthcare professionals as participants, conducted in Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan and containing relevant data concerning “medical disclosure” or “good death.” Quality assessment of publications was conducted using the NIH and CASP checklists. Results Primary database search revealed a total of 108 papers of which 9 were ultimately included. The additional hand search led to the inclusion of eight further papers. In total, there were 11 quantitative studies, 4 qualitative studies and 2 literature reviews included in this review. Our findings indicated that most terminally ill cancer patients in China want to know the truth about their diagnosis and prognosis and preferred to be informed by their doctors. Terminally ill cancer patients valued a good relationship with family and medical staff as well as being respected as an individual and wanted to be able to prepare for death. Significance of results Terminally ill cancer patients in China often have a substantial need for information about their condition while their preferences are widely consistent with those in Western societies. Training for health professionals needs to focus on communication skills in order to overcome barriers in patient interaction.
Keywords: Chinese culture / Disclosure / Good death / Literature review / Palliative care

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