Listening is a bilateral agreement

We all know doctors should listen, but do patients want to listen to doctors when denial feels better than the reality of a disease.

No one wants to know that they are sick, but sometimes, the comfort of denial makes a person so sick they can’t recover. During my residency program, I was among a small group of dentists who were introduced to a nicely dressed, well spoken man of about 50 years, and his 25 year old son. Our professor encouraged us to meet him and interact. I naively enjoyed the conversation, and we left the room after examining this man’s chief complaint… a large swelling under his tongue.
Out of earshot, a few minutes later, the professor quietly told us the gentleman would live approximately another two weeks. He had ignored his dental problem until he was completely unable to eat, and the cancer had spread everywhere. The information shocked us. The professor went on to say that the tumor had been operable in the early stages, but was completely untreatable now.
I felt sick, and sorry for a man who had the opportunity of health, and had never sought it out.
Since then, I perform an oral cancer screening every 6 months for all my patients, and I think of this gentleman. His legacy to me is, try to seek the beginnings of problems and prevent them. And keep trying to communicate, even when patients turn a deaf ear. Statistics show that information needs to be repeated up to seven times before it is retained. I hope that at least once is early enough to help someone else from ending up like that poor fellow many years ago.