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Japanese medical interns, who rarely have chances to reveal terminal-stage cancer diagnosis in their daily work, generally say they would inform patients’ families about cancer before patients, a joint survey by Japanese and U.S. groups showed Friday.

On the other hand, more than half of the U.S. interns questioned said they would inform only patients.

Shinji Matsumura, a practicing doctor in Tokyo who joined in questioning the Japanese interns, said he was surprised by the survey results because Japanese doctors have come to tell patients of cancer diagnosis.

“Cultural differences between Japan and the United States are probably behind (the survey results),” Matsumura said.

In the survey, 94 percent of Japanese interns said they would tell both patients and their families if patients have incurable cancer, while 53 percent of U.S. interns said they would tell only patients.

Of the interns who answered they would inform both, 44 percent of Japanese said they would inform the family first, compared with just 2 percent of U.S. interns.

Also, 62 percent of U.S. interns said they are certain they would be making the best choice in who to inform, compared with only 8 percent of Japanese interns.

Researchers obtained answers from 244 Japanese interns in five hospitals and 103 U.S. interns in two hospitals, in 2003 and 2004.

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