Second Opinions: Confirming Diagnosis & Treatment Plans
Cancer can be a frightening and confusing diagnosis. When diagnosed, a patient may feel like they are in shock and overwhelmed. This can lead to difficulty in making treatment decisions. Cancer research and clinical trials are making more treatment options available. This is exciting but can add to the confusion of sorting out your best treatment plan. There are also many different types of blood cancers, so it is important to ensure that our diagnosis is correct and that we understand our exact type of blood cancer. A patient may seek the advice of another physician to confirm the diagnosis and recommend how to treat it. This is called a second opinion.
I didn't expect to get a second opinion
As an experienced nurse, I had not considered the need for a second opinion because I trusted my oncologist. However, my physician insisted that I consult with an oncologist from our neighboring tertiary center. This helped me to feel confident about my diagnosis and in my treatment choices.
Diagnosis can be confusing and misdiagnosis does happen
In 2006, a study by Johns Hopkins reviewed six thousand people diagnosed with cancer and found that one 1 of 71 cases was misdiagnosed and up to 1 out of 5 cancer cases were misclassified.1 More recently, a study from Johns Hopkins was published in Diagnosis and found that cancer was among the "big three" conditions involved in misdiagnosis and misdiagnosis-related harm.2
In 2012, a study in the Journal of the Medical Association identified common reasons for misdiagnosis. These included: problems with ordering diagnostic tests, incomplete medical history provided by the patient, and errors in interpreting test results.3 Ensuring that your blood cancer diagnosis is accurate is imperative to determining the most appropriate treatment plan.
A second opinion can help the patient feel more confident in the diagnosis and the fact that the most current and effective treatment plan is implemented. This provides a means to explore all options and give you peace of mind that you have the correct diagnosis and are making the right treatment choice.
Preparing for a second opinion visit
Getting a second opinion means asking another oncologist or specialist to review all your medical reports, pathology slides, and test results. They will give an opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. A second opinion may confirm your original physician’s treatment plan, provide more details, change your original physician’s diagnosis and treatment plan, or recommend different treatment options.4
Prior to my appointment, my pathology slides were sent to the physician for review. I met with the oncologist after he reviewed my medical records and slides. He clearly explained how he interpreted the results, the research and clinical guidelines that he utilized and his recommendations. Fortunately, both oncologists concurred on the diagnosis and treatment plan. I felt better informed as I moved forward with my treatment.
A second opinion may provide more information and comfort
I was able to receive the latest research-based treatment under the direction of my primary oncologist with a plan to return to the other oncologist if circumstances changed.
The idea of getting a second opinion may seem overwhelming to a newly diagnosed cancer patient but may provide the necessary confirmation of the treatment plan or an opportunity to explore other treatment options.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?