The Value of a Second Opinion
When patients hear the words “you have cancer,” oftentimes their brain shuts off to any other information shared with them at that time.
As a result, they may leave the doctor’s office frightened, worried, and unclear on what to do next. The patient couldn’t possibly expect to be able to digest the treatment plan the physician prescribed because she or he is still in shock.
Many patients panic and think, “I have to get the cancer out of me now.” The reality is they have time to get a second opinion, which we support.
We also recommend they seek out another breast surgeon. If you choose to obtain a second opinion, it’s a good rule to find a physician with at least the same level of skills, experience and expertise of your current health care provider.
Ask both doctors to outline your options and describe the possible risks and recovery expectations. Instead of being a passive patient, be part of the team by seeking out as much information as possible.
Even if patients receive the same diagnosis and prognosis, they can walk away with reassurance. The second opinion confirms the course of action.
Before seeing the doctor for a second opinion, be sure to have your records forwarded to the second doctor to avoid having to repeat diagnostic tests. Share your medical history so the doctor is aware of other medical issues that may affect your treatment. Write down a list of questions to ask and if possible, take along a friend or family member who will also hear the information your doctor is providing. Ask the doctor how many times he or she has performed the procedure.
Remember you have every right to ask as many questions as necessary to fully understand your diagnosis, treatment options, the procedure, its risks and the recovery process.
Here are a few reasons to seek a second opinion:
- Your diagnosis is unclear. Diagnosis is a complicated process. Many diseases share symptoms, which can make it very difficult for a physician to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
- You’ve been told you have a rare or life-threatening condition.
- You have several medical problems.
- The recommended treatment is risky, controversial or experimental.
- You have a choice of treatments or medical tests that vary widely in cost.
- You’re not responding to a treatment as expected.
- You have lost confidence in your medical care provider.
- There’s more than one right treatment. For many conditions, there are several appropriate treatment options. Breast cancer patients may have a choice between lumpectomy and mastectomy, for example. A second opinion can help you decide which treatment is most appropriate for your particular situation.
- You are not comfortable with your doctor’s level of experience.
- You don’t feel your physician is listening to your questions and concerns or providing enough information for you to make an informed decision.
- You’re simply not comfortable with your physician.
In many cases, patients are referred to a surgeon by their primary care physician who has the best intentions to find the right doctor for you, but sometimes, it is not a fit.
Your surgeon has to be a good fit, you have to feel confident in his or her skills and bedside manner.
Do your homework; talk with friends. Does your doctor answer all of your questions thoroughly, are phone calls returned promptly, how are you treated in the office?
Keep asking questions until you completely understand your options. Remember that the final decision whether and when to have treatment is ultimately your choice.
At Comprehensive Breast Care, we have an entire multidisciplinary team going to bat for you. We will meet you in the office at 6 am if that is the time that works for you, or if you want to talk with a surgeon right away. Patients are the center of what we do; you will not get better care or patient service anywhere else, and our surgical outcomes are equal if not better than most surgeons. We are 100 percent dedicated to you and your care.
We also want our patients to be a partner in the decision making. Our goal not only is to provide expedited care, but also to assure that you have all of the information you need to make the best decision for your care.
In addition, we schedule 100 percent of your appointments. Whether it’s follow-up visits, radiographic studies, follow-up imaging, — whatever it is, we schedule it for you. All you have to do is show up for your appointment. We make it as easy and smooth as possible for our patients.
Remember, a second opinion can provide peace of mind that the decision you make is the best one.
Authors: Eric Brown, MD, FACS; and Linsey Gold, DO, FACOS, FACS
Eric Brown, MD, FACS, is board certified in General Surgery and certified in Breast Ultrasound. He previously served as Director of Oncology Services at Beaumont Hospital in Troy, and also as Director of the Center for Breast Health at Beaumont – Troy. He was voted top breast cancer doctor for 2015 by Newsweek Magazine, and has been named a “Top Doc” for Metro Detroit by Hour Detroit Magazine for the past eight years.
Linsey Gold, DO, FACOS, FACS, is a fellowship trained breast surgeon and certified in Breast Ultrasound. She is Fellowship Director of the Breast Fellowship program of McLaren/Karmanos Flint, and was the first Director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc before she opened her own private practice. She was named a “Top Doc” this year for Metro Detroit by Hour Detroit Magazine.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Gold work at Comprehensive Breast Care at 4967 Crooks Road in Troy. To reach the physicians, call 248.687.7300.