Getting a Second Opinion

Getting a Second Opinion

When diagnosed with breast cancer, most women panic and want to start away with a treatment as soon as feasible. But in many cases victims do have time to ensure that their diagnosis results were correct and they have opted for the right treatment. This is where they can go for a second opinion.

What is second opinion?

As in any other medical issue, getting a second opinion for breast cancer surgery implies visiting another breast cancer specialist or a team of experts and asking them to check your diagnosis results and test reports to suggest the best treatment option. With a second opinion you can get confirmation of the diagnosis reports deduced by the previous doctor, get few more details about the kind and stage of your cancer and possibly get to know about other treatment options that you may not have known earlier.

The very thought of getting a second opinion can be overwhelming for someone who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It also takes time and research to find another good, reliable doctor. But most people with this disease prefer going for a second opinion and their current doctors too do not mind referring them to another surgeon. Generally speaking, delay in starting the treatment poses lesser amount of risk than going for a treatment that may not quite solve your problem. Certain medical insurance companies also ask for a second opinion before the treatment commences.

→ Read More about When to seek a second opinion?

Where and How to seek a second opinion?

After consulting your first doctor, you have to look for another breast cancer expert or team of experts who can give you a second opinion. It will be best to find a breast cancer doctor who works as a part of multidisciplinary group comprising surgeons, oncologists, radiations therapists and pathologists. In other cases, you can consult an independent doctor known for his/her expertise in the field or one referred by your friends or family.

When expenses are a concern, you may have to restrict your search to medical experts who are a part of your insurance health plan. At this time, also check the clauses of your insurance plan to see how it covers and pays for second opinions.

Decisions for treatment of breast cancer and the likelihood of their success depend critically on the report analyzed and prepared by the pathologist as per his/her diagnosis. If you got the report from an independent center, your doctor can help you get a second opinion through his/her hospital’s pathology department.

For maximum benefits of second opinion on pathology reports, it should be based on direct re-examination of the image slides that were used for first diagnosis. While deciding upon the therapeutic decision for their tumor, many patients also get a second opinion as per the review of the written reports. With different kinds of breast cancers of very small size or requiring non-invasive treatments, the issue of a direct evaluation of the diagnostic materials is even more significant.

Like pathology reports, treatment plans can also be reviewed at a different cancer centre or hospital. As mentioned above, multidisciplinary breast cancer team from another reputable hospital would be the best source for consultation.

Tips to get second opinion on breast cancer

Simply remember the following points while seeking a second opinion

  • Politely request your doctor to recommend someone for another round of diagnosis and advice.
  • Check on websites of major cancer hospitals and tumor treatment centers in your area.
  • In the United States, try to limit your search to centers approved by the National Cancer Institute (part of Federal government’s National Institutes of Health).
  • Ask your friends and family for references of good doctors known for their expertise in the field.
  • Post a request on online medical forums for opinions of people who may have undergone diagnosis procedures or treatments at particular centers

Understanding the second opinion

Generally, second opinion for breast cancer treatment plan helps you with any of the following aspects:

Corroborates the first opinion- This is good for reassurance as it enhances your confidence in the original diagnosis and your discussions with the doctor. You can then go ahead with the treatment as planned.

Gives further information about the cancer and/or more treatment options – Without negating the original opinion on your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment advice, your new doctor can reveal more details about the disease and inform you about treatments that you may not have considered before. This is also reassuring.

Deviates from the original opinion in significant manner or fully contradicts it - Though a rare case, this can obviously cause some confusion and worry. At times, even though the pathology reads the same, two doctors can suggest more or less of treatment than the other or very different approaches to the treatment.

Deviates from the original opinion in significant manner or fully contradicts it - Though a rare case, this can obviously cause some confusion and worry. At times, even though the pathology reads the same, two doctors can suggest more or less of treatment than the other or very different approaches to the treatment.

When faced with a different second opinion, you can proceed in any of the following ways:

  • Get another appointment with your first doctor preferably when he/she has spoken to the second doctor. Your doctor may then be able to explain the difference of opinion and may also agree with the second one.
  • Request the doctors to help you understand the basis of their conclusions. They will be able to tell you as to how they interpreted your reports and decided upon the treatment procedures suitable in your case. They can also give you instances of other patients who received successful treatments in breast cancer cases similar to yours.
  • You can also look for a third specialist to confirm the findings and advice given by the two doctors and weigh the accuracy of their opinions.

Second Opinion at a Distance Program for Breast Cancer

For breast cancer only, a multidisciplinary evaluation at a distance is now available. For more information, please contact or mail your report at

A little research on breast cancer and its treatment options through books and online medical forums can also guide you in the right direction.

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