In a prospective study, 100 cancer patients and their relatives were separately interviewed using a structured interview to examine whether the diagnosis of cancer should be communicated to patients and relatives; the reasons for doing so or not, the emotional reactions of patients and families; any change in the attitude of relatives; behaviour of patients and patient's expectation, on diagnosis, of the course of their illness. The majority of patients, who knew their diagnosis (71 %), wanted to be told the truth. The majority of relatives wanted to know the truth themselves (81 %) without the patients being told (77%). Patients did show immediate emotional reactions like anxiety and dejection, however they appeared to accept the diagnosis. Findings suggest that in an Indian setting the attitude of family members is more positive. The role played by sociocultural factors in the acceptance of the truth is discussed.