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.