Cancer is a dangerous disease and the proper diagnosis will help you with a comfortable and confident recovery plan. When you’re taking treatment for cancer, it’s obvious to have thoughts if another doctor can offer more information or another treatment option that will be more beneficial. You may want to find another doctor to look at your test results, speak to you about your personal situation, and maybe give you another perspective on it. Getting a second opinion in cancer can help validate the first doctor’s view or offer advice on potential treatment choices. It will make you feel more positive about your care plan and diagnosis.
Some Facts and Figures:
The prevalence of cancer in India is estimated at around 2.5 million, with around 1.25 million new cases reported each year and around 800,000 deaths due to the disease.
The second opinion is a patient’s method of finding an alternative assessment of his or her diagnosis and treatment plan by another, or by a few other specialist doctors to confirm the diagnosis and validate their treatment.
Before treatment, many patients seek a second opinion for confirmation or diagnosis for a complex condition. Researchers say that as many as 88 percent of those patients go home with a new or advanced diagnosis — changing their treatment plan and possibly their lives. In contrast, only 12 percent receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was correct and complete.
Few studies have shown that up to 30 percent of people seeking second advice found that their original treatment for recovery did not suit the substitute treatment, and the latter proved more effective in most cases. Although taking second opinions isn’t a new concept, it has gained popularity in recent times as a medical service. It is quite common for patients to seek second opinion, in particular for life-threatening diseases such as cancer.
Should You Get a Second Opinion?
You should not worry and feel free to ask your doctor for a second opinion. It is not offensive and it is the right of the patient. Doctors are usually happy and help their patients arrange a second opinion. Your doctor wants the best treatment approach for your cancer and a second opinion will help him plan treatment for a confirmed diagnosis.
You should consider seeking a second opinion when:
- A rare form of cancer has been diagnosed.
- Your doctor has little experience in treating your type of cancer.
- You have several recovery choices, so you remain confused about what to do.
- Your test results are unclear regarding your cancer type and location.
- A condition or recovery program doesn’t make you happy.
Even if you already had the treatment you can get a second opinion. A second opinion can make recommendations for how your treatment will progress.
How a Second Opinion Can Help:
Patients diagnosed with cancer often experience a wide spectrum of feelings, as well as a feeling of desperation to start treatment as soon as possible. Typically there is a period of time for a new diagnosis, based on the form and severity of the disease before the therapy starts. Obtaining a second opinion at this period may be an important and appropriate part of treating one ‘s condition. It can contribute to:
- Approve your diagnosis.
- Determine if cancer is spreading.
- Viewpoint from experts with different expertise (such as a radiation oncologist or surgical oncologist)
- Determine clinical trials or alternative treatments that apply to your treatment plan
- Other medications.
- Imbibe confidence on how to proceed with your care.
Is there time to wait for a second opinion?
Treatment plans are to be made after you have a clear picture of your diagnosis and learned all you can about your prognosis, and the treatment options available. Depending on the type of cancer you have, it may take time. In some cancers, few treatment decisions have to be made right away. It is completely acceptable if you take some time to think about them, and you should think about them. If you are worried about the delay at the start of treatment, you should talk to your doctor.
Second opinion etiquette:
You may be concerned that if you decide to seek advice from another health care professional, your doctor will be offended, but most doctors understand that many patients decide to seek a different opinion, and will want you to feel comfortable and secure before starting treatment.
Honestly, it is an integral part of the bond between doctor and patient, and experts suggest that you make your doctors aware of your decisions. You’ll need to collect medical records from your original appointment, and this may be a time to let your doctor know you ‘re exploring other treatment options.
How to get started seeking a second opinion?
Talk to your doctor:
First, tell your doctor you want to get a second opinion. Patients with cancer typically request a second opinion, and certain insurance programs also require one, particularly if a doctor suggests surgery or alternative therapy.
Some individuals may not feel comfortable talking to their doctor about getting a different opinion. To make it easier to discuss the issue, tell your doctor that you are satisfied with his or her treatment plan and care, but that you want to ensure that you are fully informed about all the treatment options available. When you have the conversation, it may help to bring a family member or friend along for support.
Get copies of your medical records:
Tell the doctor for the medical history, original X-rays, examination, and test reports and you can take them with you for a second opinion on your first appointment. You may also send the information from the current doctor from the new doctor’s office if that is more convenient. Many hospitals allow patients access to their own medical records.
It is a good idea to ask your medical records even if, in case of an emergency, you don’t want to seek a second opinion.
It should not take longer than a week for a doctor’s office to collect information from your previous doctor’s office and book a second opinion consultation for you. If you plan to bring your medical records to the appointment, it may take even less time than to ask your primary doctor to forward them.
When you have to wait for a second opinion for longer than a week or two to see a doctor, you may want to find someone else.
Here are a few reasons to consider a Second Opinion
Here are five reasons why getting a second opinion should be a top priority on the path to recovery:
Peace Of Mind.
A cancer diagnosis is disturbing, and even if you feel like you’ve already found the right team, you may want reassurance to quell the ‘what-ifs.’ Sometimes a second opinion is important not because you’re going to be diagnosed with something else, but just to confirm what the initial consultation team has already said. That brings trust and confidence in the treatment.
Up-To-Date Treatment And Technology.
The knowledge about cancer and how to treat it is changing fast. Every year, new researches provide insight that can lead to more adequate treatment, and although oncologists may occasionally seem like super-intelligent superheroes, they are humans and there’s always a welcoming open door of learning new things.
Most of the time, a team of experts is responsible for a successful treatment and not just one doctor’s efforts. It requires a team of oncologists, surgeons, and more who each bring a different perspective and approach to treatment.
Access To Clinical Trials.
Clinical trials, the real-world research studies involving people allow oncologists to determine new approaches in limiting, diagnosing, and tackling diseases. Most of the time, cancer patients who seek second opinions at different setups will learn of a current or upcoming clinical trial that’s right for them or their treatment plan.
You are not satisfied with what you heard. If you’re filled with fear and doubt after your first opinion, then you should know that another doctor may have a different approach. And just because one doctor indicates an alarming prognosis, there might be another doctor offering more hope.
What if the Second Opinion doesn’t match with the First?
There are pretty good chances that the second opinion will be similar to that of your first doctor. So if that is the case you can feel more confident in your diagnosis and treatment plan.
However, the second doctor may have different ideas about diagnosis or treatment. If that happens, DO NOT worry — you still have choices. You should go back to the first doctor to address the second opinion. You can agree together to adjust your treatment based on this new knowledge. You should get a third doctor’s opinion, too. It could help you decide which of your first two choices is better.
Remember you don’t have to switch doctors even if you get a second or third opinion. You’ll be able to decide which doctor will do your treatment.
Now, why can a second opinion in cancer treatment be helpful?
When a patient walks in for their initial consultation after a cancer diagnosis, they bring a plethora of problems in their mind. Typically they come to get detailed information about their condition after they have already been given a diagnosis of cancer. They arrive at an oncology clinic in a state of panic and disturbance. They also have questions about their future life and how normal it will be. Typically when getting a second opinion, consultation is via a follow-up call following a biopsy and/or examination to confirm that they have cancer. Receiving a similar diagnosis produces a strong emotional reaction.
Most cancer cases are usually clear and straightforward. A clear diagnosis is made and treatments are initiated. In such cases, many patients may not need a second opinion. But when a diagnosis of a unique cancer is made, there is much fear, misconceptions, and many questions about treatment. All these factors can determine whether a person may live or die, thus it is not totally acceptable to a patient to want to have another point of view-what we call a second opinion.
The most valuable thing a doctor can provide to a patient or family concerned after reviewing the cancer data is to explain, in clear terms, all the related issues. Patients want state-of-the-art medical treatment but may have reservations about what is the right way to go about it. Although this is when a second opinion can be very helpful in doing so, most patients are reluctant to offend their primary doctor. Many patients may not know it’s a common procedure to have a second opinion.
It is really important for the patient and his family/friends to give themselves time to know exactly what the diagnosis means unless emergency care is required. They need to gather information on how to treat it (surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy), weigh the options (if immediate treatment has an effect on their particular disease), and understand the prognosis and chances of a cure.
Having a second opinion can help you determine the cancer treatment tailored to meet your needs. Many factors determine how long a second opinion evaluation takes. During the diagnosis, a dedicated team of oncologists, nurses, dietitians, and other cancer specialists collaborate with you to assess your medical history, diagnostic tests, and treatment status. They may also use additional diagnostic technology to further evaluate the disease. Using all this information, they plan your personalized treatment plan.