If you receive a cancer diagnosis, one of the first things you should do is ask for a second opinion.
Don’t worry about offending the physician who diagnosed you. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if your doctor suggests a second opinion before you ask.
“I would say that 75% of the time, I bring it up first,” said Ismael Shaukat, MD, a medical oncologist at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois. “Many times, patients are afraid they will insult their doctor by asking for a second opinion. But speaking for myself and my colleagues, we are never insulted by that.”
‘A more complete picture’
In fact, physicians often want a second opinion as much as the patient.
Not all cancers are alike, nor are they always straightforward. They can be tricky and present themselves in different ways. Some types are more complicated than others and require additional testing for the diagnosis to be certain.
“Number one, I want to confirm my original diagnosis is correct,” Dr. Shaukat said. “Getting another perspective is good. Within our own group, we bounce ideas off each other all the time. I might look at it one way, and someone else might look at it another way. It’s not always about being right or wrong. It’s about getting a more complete picture. If someone has a totally different opinion, then we want a chance to reach out and discuss it.”
Increase comfort and confidence
The same holds true when developing a treatment plan.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, it’s normal to experience some fear and anxiety. You might feel overwhelmed by the barrage of information. Getting a second opinion on the diagnosis, as well as treatment options, can provide clarity and help reduce your uncertainty.
Dr. Shaukat stressed the importance of arming patients with as many resources as possible to battle the disease. It’s all about empowering you to ask questions, weigh options and make good decisions. The more engaged you become in the process, your comfort and confidence increase.
“We want to do what’s best for the patient. That’s always our intent,” Dr. Shaukat said. “We want the patient to have full confidence that we are doing the right thing, and having a second opinion helps that, too. If the patient is second-guessing themselves, it makes treatment difficult.
“A patient’s comfort level is vital in cancer treatment. If the patient is confident and comfortable, they will have a positive outlook they can feed into – and patients do better with a positive outlook.”
Ask for guidance
While it’s important to move quickly to fight your cancer, that doesn’t mean you have to rush. Every decision regarding your treatment doesn’t have to be made before you leave your doctor’s office.
Start by asking for that second opinion, and find out the best options available to you. Take time to ask questions, seek advice and think about your next step.
Where you can go for a second opinion is likely to be restricted, at least to some degree, by your insurance provider.
“But we know who your insurance will allow you to see, and we can help you with that,” Dr. Shaukat said. “We will let you know your choices and send them your diagnosis information. Then, all you have to do is answer the phone when they call and set your appointment. It’s a fairly streamlined process.