The results of a questionnaire answered by 205 medical patients are reported (100 patients with cancer and 105 with other medical conditions). The questionnaire examined beliefs and preferences regarding various aspects of cancer, including expectations of medical management and treatment. The issues examined relate to beliefs and preferences about information giving, trust of doctors' control of decision making, expectations of help, expectations of treatment, the treatment of cancer pain including morphine use, and issues of terminal care. Some patients appear to hold the inconsistent beliefs that doctors should tell them all they want to know, but that doctors do not know a lot of what they would like to be told. They were also ambivalent about who should make decisions, patient or doctor, suggesting a preference for collaborative consensus decision making. It may be important to inform patients more clearly about what doctors can and cannot reasonably be expected to know and do. Some incorrect beliefs about management were related to fear about having cancer. The results suggest the need for better communication between patients and their professional carers and the need for accessible health information about cancer management to be available to the general public.