Cancer Diagnosis – Should You Get a Second Opinion?

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When you have been diagnosed with cancer it can feel a little tricky to navigate such a new world, filled with a lot of information that may be confusing. What kind of treatment is right for you?  What is the next best step for you to make moving forward so that you can optimize your health and fight the disease?   How do I know this is the correct diagnosis and treatment plan for me?  So many questions will arise immediately and in the days following a diagnosis and that is perfectly normal.  What is also perfectly normal is the desire to seek a second opinion regarding your diagnosis.  People may worry that it is “cheating” on their doctor to seek a second opinion but that is the furthest thing from the truth.  In fact, many doctors will actually encourage you to seek a second opinion to affirm their diagnosis and ensure that it is correct so that you can formulate the best treatment plan for your individual circumstances.  It is important to seek a second opinion not only to learn more about your diagnosis and ensure that it is comprehensive and correct but to ensure that you are completely comfortable with your treating physician.  Every personality is different and it is important to feel comfortable with your oncologist, as well as the treatment plan, so that you can focus on getting healthy.

When seeking a second opinion it is natural to fear that you may offend your first oncologist.  It is important to know this – if your first oncologist expresses offense or discourages you from seeking a second opinion based purely on ego – choose another doctor.  While there are certain times that time is very much of the essence, and the sooner you begin treating your cancer the better, but it should never be at the sacrifice of your comfort with your physician and treatment plan.  What many find is that, actually, most oncologists encourage their patients to seek a second opinion because two minds are better than one and a second opinion can provide an important (and sometimes necessary!) chance to examine the situation fully and explore every possibility for treatment to increase the chance of survival.  While certain things in medicine are an exact science, there is also much interpretation on the physician’s part and that interpretation can vary significantly, significantly impacting the diagnosis and approach to treatment.  NBC News shares an interesting statistic that reinforces just how important it is to seek a second opinion, “As we discovered, getting another doctor’s view can dramatically change a treatment plan and even a diagnosis — research finds it happens in as many as 30% of cases. In one particularly dramatic finding recently published in the journal Cancer, the recommendations for surgery changed for more than half of breast cancer patients who received a second opinion. In some cases, previously undiagnosed second tumors were discovered. Still, almost 50% of Americans never get second opinions, according to a 2005 Gallup poll. But it’s key to getting the best diagnosis and treatment, says James Rohack, MD, a trustee with the American Medical Association and a cardiologist in Temple, TX. “You may even prevent an unnecessary procedure or the cost and side effects of medication you might not need.” If you have been diagnosed with cancer, speak to your physician about getting a second opinion.  Your physician will likely encourage it and may even have a recommendation for who to see.  You are not cheating on your physician and they know that, they understand that a second set of eyes is never a bad thing.  The bottom line is – it is your life and if a second opinion will provide more information, make you more comfortable, or help your treating team to find the best solution for your care, then you should absolutely seek a second opinion without hesitation.



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