Should You Get a Second Opinion on your Breast Cancer Diagnosis?

Your doctor may make a sound diagnosis of breast cancer by carrying out a series of procedures: breast examination, mammogram (breast x-ray), breast ultrasound, and/or biopsy (removing a sample of the breast cells for testing). In certain cases, a precise diagnosis may necessitate breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Once you have a formal diagnosis of breast cancer, the next step is to ascertain its precise stage to prepare an effective treatment plan. Staging your breast cancer may require multiple tests including mammograms, blood tests, MRI, CT scans, and/or PET scans. The most suitable set of procedures is chosen by your doctor based on the symptoms you may present. After comprehensive testing, your doctor indicates your breast cancer stage from 0 to IV, with 0 being the non-invasive form found in milk ducts and IV being the metastatic form that has spread to other parts of your body.

Research evidence indicates that most early-stage cancer patients are satisfied with the opinion of their first oncologist. However, a second opinion provides a means to obtain additional input and also reassures the patient about recommended treatment options. Second opinions are especially relevant to cases of metastatic cancer.

What Does Mean a Second Opinion for Breast Cancer?

While women may not understand the value of a second opinion, a second opinion may prove useful in many cases if there is time for research. Getting a second opinion means consulting another specialist or a team of specialists to review medical reports, evaluate the diagnosis, and review treatment options. A second opinion may lead to different outcomes:

  • Providing deeper insight about the stage of breast cancer
  • Confirming your previous diagnosis or
  • Recommending a different treatment plan

Even after starting your treatment, it may be a good idea to get a second opinion for additional recommendations.

The most important advantage of getting a second opinion is to get access to important information that may be missing during your initial diagnosis. Your medical history and test results are the starting point to provide information about the precise stage of cancer. You may opt for a second opinion anytime, after getting your biopsy results, before your surgery, or while you are in the process of creating your post-surgery plan.

A second opinion before surgery helps in the following way:

  • May provide an idea about whether it is appropriate to shrink the tumor
  • How to interpret graphics from imaging such as ultrasound and MRI
  • Deciding which surgery is best in your specific situation (mastectomy or lumpectomy), and
  • Making a decision about the best way to perform breast reconstruction

Furthermore, taking a second opinion while creating your post-surgery plan provides you with a way to decide whether your treatment must contain one or more treatments including hormonal therapy, radiation, chemotherapy, and other targeted therapies.

What Research Evidence Says about the Value of a Second Opinion on Breast Cancer

A South Carolina study confirmed the importance of a second opinion. Results showed that 40% of the participants received a change in diagnosis after getting a second opinion. Although researchers admitted that the study may not be generalizable, a second opinion was an integral aspect of obtaining a sound diagnosis and treatment plan. A second opinion involves a team of specialists and may confirm your diagnosis and treatment, provide details about the stage of cancer, or recommend a different course of action.

The study was carried out between August 2015 and March 2016 and focused on the findings of multidisciplinary tumor boards which consist of medical professionals belonging to different specialties: surgical oncologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, geneticists, radiation oncologists, and nurse navigators. Experts derived conclusions after comparing findings from pathology, radiology, and genetic testing. 43 out of 70 participants were advised additional diagnostics (biopsy or imaging). This recommendation proved critical as 16 people were diagnosed with new cancer occurrences. Further, the board transferred 11 people to genetic testing. Overall, 30 people had a change in diagnosis, proving that a second opinion was an important step in getting an accurate diagnosis. What are the Essential Questions to Ask when you go for a Second Opinion? Most doctors will require access to your pathology reports, detailed surgery reports, summaries of treatment plans, discharge summaries, and medication lists to provide a sound second opinion.

It’s best to have a list of questions to ask your doctor before going for a second opinion. These queries may address a number of concerns:

  • Verifying whether physicians diagnosing and treating breast cancer are board-certified.
  • Checking accreditation status of the hospital by the Joint Commission
  • Inquiring if the breast cancer complies with accreditation standards set by the National Accreditation Program for Breast cancer (NAPBC).
  • Verifying if the hospital has received recognition for excellence in healthcare delivery and medical leadership.
  • Seeking information on specific issues in the form of yearly data on the number of women treated and procedures undertaken: stereotactic and ultrasound imaging, guided breast biopsies, mammograms, surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Getting detailed information on specialty services including radiation therapy, plastic surgery, breast pathology, and genetics.
  • Finding out about patient satisfaction score for a hospital. This may include data about patients and programs to assist patients and their families.
  • Getting more information about the involvement of the hospital in residency training, teaching programs, and clinical trials.
  • Finding out about outcome indicators such as infection rates, length of stay, the success rate of breast reconstruction, and details of breast-conserving surgery (partial mastectomy or lumpectomy).

How Can KareOptions Help you Get a Second Medical Opinion

Finding the right doctor for getting a second opinion and dealing with insurance concerns may be overwhelming for most patients. Some patients may even feel awkward telling their current doctor that they would like a second opinion. Sometimes, your doctor may be able to help you find the right specialist, but in most cases, you have to do a lot of work finding the right doctor without delaying your essential treatment. Insurance companies may or may cover the cost of a second opinion, and some may reimburse your costs when you consult a specialist who belongs to their approved lists of providers.

KareOptions can simplify the process of getting a second opinion for your cancer treatment by undertaking all the groundwork to get access to specialists that suit your healthcare needs. Our Medical Second Opinion Service (MSOS) and Second Opinion Board Review (SOBR) help you obtain a sound review of your diagnosis and treatment options by a team of oncology experts.

Related Blogs:

How can cancer experts guide you in coping with the disease

Why a Multidisciplinary Second Opinion on Cancer is Important to Ensure the Best Chances of Recovery

How to deal with the Emotional Side Effects of Cancer and its Treatment Journey

How cancer staging is determined?


“KareOptions does not have any intention to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide its users and/ or the general public with information to better understand their health. All content (including text, graphics, images, information, etc.) provided herein is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. KareOptions makes no representation and assumes no responsibility/ liability for the accuracy of the information, advice, diagnosis, treatment provided herein or on its website. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY IN SEEKING TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ IT HERE OR ACCESSED THROUGH THE KAREOPTIONS WEBSITE.

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