Receiving an advanced breast cancer diagnosis is an overwhelming and anxiety-ridden event. It can often present us with many questions, including if our doctor has made the correct diagnosis. Your doctor may be able to provide you with concrete information, treatment plan details, and help you create a plan for moving forward, but it doesn’t always mean that this is the best plan or the plan you HAVE to stick to. Often times, many people get second opinions after their initial diagnosis, and before they begin treatment. But don’t let this window confine you! If at any time you are unhappy with your treatment, or just want a different set of eyes and ears, it’s okay to broaden your view and include other health care professionals.
Cancer knowledge, research, clinical trials, and treatments are always changing and evolving. Some health care professionals are more up-to-date than others or may be more knowledgeable about issues concerning your specific case and diagnosis. Speaking to another doctor may help you find the best options for you and your specific needs. However, there are some factors you may be thinking about before getting a second opinion, including some of the questions or dilemmas below!
Will I Offend My Doctor?
While this may not be your top concern, many often worry how their doctor will feel upon hearing you may want to seek care elsewhere, and if this will affect your treatment in the future. However, what people often don’t know, is that your doctor may actually be expecting you to get a second opinion! Many doctors are very open and encouraging when patients are interested in a second opinion to confirm their diagnosis, staging, and care plan, especially if they are open communicators and are invested their patients’ care! Some doctors may even offer suggestions on where to find others who may specialize in your specific type of case, or point you towards databases like the American Medical Association or the American Board of Medical Specialties so you can explore on your own!
Are All Oncologists the Same?
Oncology is an ever-growing field with many subspecialties. There are medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgical oncologists, to name a few. Each type specializes in a different subset of care, and may be more applicable to your situation. Also, different doctors may be more aware of a newer treatment option, or a clinical trial you may be eligible for. You may find someone else perfectly suited for your needs!
What Will the Appointment Be Like?
In order to have the most effective experience you can, it is important to gather all documents and test results and bring them to the new doctor. They’ll most likely tell you what exactly they need, but the more information you can bring, the better, in order to avoid repeat tests that could slow down the process or cost money. Take notes during all of your appointments or bring a friend or family member to be an extra set of ears, if possible. This way, you can confirm results from another doctor, ask about your proposed treatment plans, and get all of your questions answered. You can also compare treatment plans, or bring any discrepancies or new questions back to your original doctor if needed. The more heads you can put together when it comes to your care, the greater the chance you will find the best treatment plan for you.
Remember that no questions are off-limits! Your doctors ultimately want the best care for you, no matter where you get it. Make sure you check with your insurance provider before you begin to visit a new doctor for a second opinion, to make sure it’s covered. Often times, many insurance companies will actually require a second opinion before they will cover treatments!1
“Seeking a Second Opinion.” Cancer.net. Sept 2015. Available from: http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/cancer-care-team/seeking-second-opinion