When To Consider A 2nd Opinion (Part 2)
Last updated: April 2022
Author’s Note: I have written about second opinions previously, but the issue continues to arise in my lung cancer circle of friends. The topic is so important, I am compelled to revisit it.
You can read the first part of this series in When To Consider A 2nd Opinion (Part 1).
Keep in mind that everyone has a right to their medical records. I encourage everyone to get set up with the patient portal, so you have access to all of your medical records. When you go in for scans, you might want to ask - at that time - about getting a copy of the scan for yourself. Then you will have it later if you need to take it to another facility.
Understand your medical records
When I was newly diagnosed, I was at a regional cancer center. Coincidentally, I worked at the university in a nearby city that had a comprehensive cancer center. Even so, at the time, I did not understand about my medical records and how to transfer my care to a different facility.
Frankly, I was intimidated and confused by the process. Because I was unsure how to navigate the situation, there was a delay of several weeks before I was finally able to begin treatment.
So, I went from a regional cancer center to a teaching university. Later, after getting more comfortable advocating for myself, I ventured to Memorial Sloane Kettering for another opinion.
Second opinions can help with treatment plans
When first being diagnosed, a second opinion is essential. However, a second opinion is not a one and done event. Other factors may justify a second opinion well into your treatment plan.
For example, after my treatment ended, there was suspicious activity on my PET scan. One of my doctors thought it was simply inflammation from the thoracotomy. Another suspected a recurrence. They referred me to the Mayo Clinic for another opinion.
So at any time in your journey, you may want to consider getting another opinion about your treatment plan. You may suspect progression. Your treatment side effects may be debilitating. Or you may think that your doctor is not up to date on the latest lung cancer treatments. With major advances happening so quickly in recent years, indeed, it is rare for oncologists who treat all types of cancers to be current on the most recent lung cancer developments.
What about third opinions?
Here's another consideration. Let's say you go to one doctor, and he gives you his opinion. You go to the second doctor, and she gives you a completely different opinion about your prognosis and treatment plan. Well, that may lead to yet a third opinion.
Or, frankly, it may be a matter of reaching out to your loved ones and having a discussion. You may need to be introspective to come to a decision about how and where you have peace about being treated. No one can tell you what's right. You will need to decide for yourself what is right for you. Because what's right for one person may not be right for the next.
Second opinions can give peace of mind
I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me that a second opinion saved their lives. I also have heard about people who, after getting a second opinion, realize that they want to be treated by their original doctor. Even so, they do not regret getting a second opinion. It helped give them greater peace of mind and confidence that they were on the right path.
For those considering a second opinion, but unsure who to see or how to go about it, ask questions to other survivors and caregivers here on this site and in other lung cancer social media platforms. People who have been on a similar journey are usually happy to share their experiences with doctors and cancer centers - both good and bad. Just ask.
At any point in your lung cancer journey, seriously consider a second opinion. That is one decision you will not regret.
Beside manner matters! What has your experience been?