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Awareness and disengagement in cancer patients
Am J Psychiatry 1979;136:632-636.
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Abstract

The authors found that cancer patients (N = 44) did not differ from patients with other chronic illnesses (N = 27) with respect to awareness of their condition or ratings on an unobtrusive, nonverbal measure of disengagement. Cancer patients who were aware were more engaged than those who were not, but this was equally true for the noncancer patients. Awareness, for the cancer patients, was not associated with frequency of visiting or with living for a longer or shorter period than expected. There was a significant interaction, however, in that patients who were aware lived longer if they were engaged, whereas patients who were unaware lived longer if they were disengaged. Caution and judgment should be exercised in sharing information with terminally ill patients because awareness may be beneficial for some but not for all.

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