Why second opinions for complex cancers matter
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a complex cancer—such as liver or pancreatic cancer—it’s important to consider all of your options. Perhaps you feel uncertain about the diagnosis you received or your doctor’s treatment recommendation. According to Dr. John Brems, general surgeon with Advocate Medical Group in Elgin, Ill., a second opinion may be a valuable next step.
“If you received a diagnosis for a complex cancer and have been advised to undergo a major surgery or therapy, then I think a second opinion is very important,” Dr. Brems says. “You want to hear the different treatments available in order to make a wise, informed decision and ultimately choose the best option for you.”
Even if you are satisfied with your primary cancer specialist, a second opinion is recommended for complex cancers, agrees Dr. C. Yeshwant, medical oncologist on the medical staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “Consider a physician who specializes in your type of cancer, as he or she may bring different treatment options to light,” Dr. Yeshwant says. “A second opinion will also make you aware of all the available treatment options, which are continually changing with medical advances.”
“I had a patient come to me for a second opinion who underwent surgery at another medical facility, and his surgeon said the tumor could not be removed,” Dr. Brems says. Despite the patient’s previous unsuccessful procedure, Dr. Brems and his medical team were able to remove the tumor. “Ideally, you want to get a second opinion before treatment begins; however, this depends on the individual situation.”
If you would like to explore another doctor’s advice, here are some suggestions:
- Let your doctor know you’re interested in a second opinion. Don’t worry about causing offense. Most doctors welcome your interest in your health.
- Ask your current doctor how to get copies of your test results and any X-rays you have had. You’ll want to share these with the other doctor when you’ve made your appointment. Keep a copy of your medical records, including your diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Bring along family members to ensure everyone understands the diagnosis and treatment options. Also, be sure to take notes and ask questions.
Both Dr. Brems and Dr. Yeshwant recommend getting a second opinion as soon as possible after receiving an initial complex cancer diagnosis. This should take place within the next week or two after receiving your primary opinion.
“If you received a serious diagnosis, time is of the essence to begin your treatment for the most successful outcome,” Dr. Brems says.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.