When you begin your journey through your diagnosis for lung cancer (or any difficult disease or condition) you need confidence at every step that you are being given good advice, that you are learning about all your treatment options, and that you can trust your new providers - doctors, nurses and an entire team you never expected to need.
It's not easy.
Medical care today is not what it used to be, and the information available for lung cancer is multiplying exponentially every day. No single oncologist or thoracic specialist can possibly keep up with all the latest news.
Further, because our time with our doctors seems to be so short, it's almost impossible for us to get all the information we need from our doctors. How many times have you walked away from an appointment, frustrated because you forgot to ask this question, or that one?
Any time any patient is provided with a diagnosis or treatment option that will be at all difficult (chronic or terminal), or will require any sort of invasive, long-term or expensive treatment (a lifelong drug regimen, or surgery or others), then it only makes sense to get a second opinion. A second opinion means you'll get that much more information, you'll learn about additional treatment options, and most important, that any decisions you make will be made based on broader input than you will get from only one doctor.
There are two possible outcomes from a second opinion: First, your second opinion might be the same as the first. If that happens, then you'll have a lot more confidence in your diagnosis and treatment knowledge. From there, you can choose which of the doctors you prefer to work with, then move forward with your treatment.
Second possibility: the two doctors will disagree, either on your diagnosis or on their treatment recommendation (or both.) If that happens, then you'll understand even better why the second opinion was so important. Your next step will be to seek confirmation of whichever opinion is right (or right for you). You may even need a third opinion.
How do you get a second opinion?
Seek a second opinion from any doctor who is not "related" to the first opinion doctor. The second opinion doctor should work in a different practice, on the other side of town, maybe even in a different town. When two doctors are friends or colleagues, they will rarely contradict each other, and what you seek is objective information.
Go ahead and tell your first opinion doctor that you're seeking a second opinion. A good doctor will welcome additional input and will support your efforts. If the first opinion doctor tries to dissuade you from getting a second opinion, that's an even louder signal (a redder flag) that you are being smart about getting a second opinion.
Our friend, and your guide Lynne, did seek a second opinion about her cancer diagnosis. And yes, it changed her approach to her treatment. She has recommended second opinions to you, too.
That's a smart patient approach to a difficult diagnosis and learning about your treatment options.
Learn more about getting a second opinion when you have been newly diagnosed.
Learn more about second opinions as they relate to lung cancer surgery.
This post was written by Trisha Torrey, the Guide to Patient Empowerment