A Survivor’s Opinion about Second Opinions
Last updated: March 2020
When you hear the words, “You have lung cancer,” it is difficult to impossible to focus on anything else. Nevertheless, it is imperative you understand your options -- without delay.
Getting answers in a timely manner
Usually, a definitive lung cancer diagnosis is not made until a pathologist analyzes the patient’s tumor tissue. The pathologist then submits his/her pathology report to the primary care provider or the requesting physician, who then notifies the patient.
During the 12 years since my lung cancer diagnosis, I have spoken to hundreds of others who have shared their experiences. A common thread is that they are replaying those words repeatedly in their mind. Meanwhile, the doctor discusses further diagnostic tests to determine the stage, tumor testing to see if there is a treatable mutation, and/or possible treatment options available.
Understanding all the information
That’s a lot for a newly diagnosed patient to fully grasp. Added to the shock of the diagnosis is the introduction of a new vocabulary and terms that -- until that moment -- were irrelevant to their life.
Confident doctors welcome second opinions
It is, of course, important that you have confidence in your doctor. It also is important your doctor have confidence in him/herself. A confident doctor will welcome a second opinion.
For decades, the treatment for lung cancer had not changed. All that has changed now. Before you undergo treatment, seriously consider getting a second opinion. It is difficult for oncologists to keep up with all the changes that are happening in the world of lung cancer. There is nothing unusual in a patient bringing an article about a new drug to their doctor.
Many of my lung cancer friends have sought second opinions. Some of these folks credit getting a second opinion with saving their lives. Some were told they were inoperable by one doctor. Yet, a second opinion advised surgery. Another patient was told he could not get a lung transplant. He fired that doctor and found one who gave him a double-lung transplant.
I, too, have gotten a second opinion on two separate occasions. While it may be awkward to tell your doctor you want a second opinion, once you ask, your doctor should be willing—even eager—for you to seek a second opinion.
Seek an outside opinion
Be careful, though. When seeking a second opinion, be sure to visit a doctor who is not in your doctor’s network. For many reasons, when you seek a second opinion, you should seek one from a doctor who is not associated with your physician or his/her institution. One reason is that if two physicians are practicing within the same institution it is highly likely that the second would make the same recommended course of treatment as the first.
Also, if you are seeking treatment at a regional cancer center, consider getting your second opinion at a facility designated by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.
What to keep in mind when looking for a second opinion
When seeking a second opinion, there are some practical things you will need to deal with. First, you need to find another oncologist. Ask other lung cancer patients here at LungCancer.net to recommend an oncologist.
You will need to gather your medical records regarding your lung cancer diagnosis, including CT scans, pathology report, PET scan, etc. You have a right to your medical records. In fact, you would be smart to keep copies of everything as you proceed through your lung cancer journey.
Most insurance companies encourage seeking a second opinion. Check with your insurance in advance to make certain your visit to the second opinion doctor is covered.
If the second opinion conflicts with the first opinion, you may need to seek another. Or use your own good judgment and choose the path that gives you the most peace.
Additional reading on second opinions
You can read more about this topic in Things to Consider Where Choosing Where to be Treated and Seeking a Second Opinion.
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