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Extensive basal cell carcinoma of the face: An extreme case of denial

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June 9, 2014
by Soroush Zaghi, MD; Pedram Ghasri, MD; Paul Busse, MD, PhD; John Clark, MD; Kevin Emerick, MD


Patients with head and neck cancer are particularly susceptible to using denial as a coping mechanism. While some forms of denial may help patients achieve better levels of physical functioning, persistent denial can serve as a major barrier to treatment. We report a case of extreme denial by a 60-year-old woman with an extensive basal cell carcinoma of the face that had been neglected for more than 20 years. We present this case to raise awareness of the potential danger of denial, and we discuss strategies that physicians can undertake to properly manage patients who engage in it. Since the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancer can result in profound psychological trauma, gaining an appreciation for how patients cope with it is an important part of the comprehensive care of head and neck oncology patients.

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