Soviet and American doctors participating in an international satellite teleconference differed Tuesday on whether cancer patients should be informed of their medical condition.

In an exchange between specialists at the National Institutes of Health near Washington and Soviet specialists at a studio in Moscow, the Russian doctors said they believed cancer patients should not be told they have the disease.Doctors on the American end of the satellite-linked teleconference strongly disagreed.

The Soviets presented an informal survey in which Soviet citizens repeatedly said they would prefer not to be informed if they are diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Nikaolai P. Napalkov, president of the oncological society of the USSR, said patients usually are not informed in the Soviet Union of such a diagnosis because of the widespread belief that cancer automatically means death.