The Myth of Not Disclosing the Diagnosis of Cancer: Does it Really Protect Elderly Patients from Depression?


Background: The disclosure of a diagnosis of cancer is complex, particularly in older patients. The aim ofthis study was to investigate the association between age and not knowing the diagnosis, and its impact on mood.Materials and
Methods: The study included 70 patients with various types of solid and hematologic cancer inearly stages, which were followed up in an outpatient oncology/hematology clinic in Turkey between January,2014 and June, 2014. Initially the caregivers of patients were asked whether the patients knew their diagnosisor not. A questionnaire for the Geriatric Depression Scale was then administered to the patients. Patient age,gender, marital status and education level were noted and analyzed with respect to knowing the diagnosis anddepression.
Results: Of the 70 patients, 40% of them were female. The mean age was 68.2 ± 8.9. The rate of thepatients who does not know their diagnosis was 37.1% (n=26). The overall depression rate with GDS was found37.1% (n=26) among the participants. There was no association with knowing the diagnosis (p=0.208) althoughthe association between not knowing the diagnosis and age was significant (p=0.01).
Conclusions: In this studywe revealed no association between not knowing the diagnosis and depression in elderly patients. Contrary towhat some has thought, the patient is not protected from psychological distress by not being informed aboutthe diagnosis. We believe this study and similar ones will help to discuss and further explore patient autonomy,the principle of respect to self-determination and end of life issues in different cultures.