Breast cancer patients and family members gather in a room on the 10th floor of Tokyo Kyosai Hospital to sit down and share their troubles, while Kaori Osawa, a medical social worker, acts as moderator and answers questions.

"When I first told my children that their mother may not live long, they became scared. But now, they've gotten used to that," one of the patients said.

Those with severe conditions also take part in the sessions in Meguro Ward, but the conversations take an upbeat tone — even when serious issues are raised that require the intervention of Osawa, 46.