It makes sense that when facing something as serious as a cancer diagnosis, you should seek out the opinions of multiple doctors – but for many reasons, a lot of people don’t. Researchers behind a new study from the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) hope to change that.
The study aimed to answer the question of just how valuable a second opinion is for people diagnosed with breast cancer. The answer is extremely valuable. Researches hope the study results will empower people to seek out multiple opinions, and gather all the information they can about their disease.
The study looked at patients who had been diagnosed at an outside institution, and then came to a cancer center with a tumor board (a group of medical professionals who decide on a diagnosis together). Researchers found that 43% of the 70 patients they looked at received a different diagnosis. “Our results show our second opinion really does provide value in potentially changing the diagnosis, which in most cases will eventually change treatment,” said Dr. Nancy DeMore, who worked on the study with colleagues at MUSC.
The experts and oncologists SurvivorNet regularly consults with are big supporters of second opinions as well. “It’s always important to get other opinions so that you can make the best decision for yourself,” said Dr. Steven Rosenberg, the Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute. “Here at the NCI there is a patient referral service that will guide patients to the right group depending on their disease state.”
Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon and advisor to SurvivorNet, said that people should never feel bad about seeking the opinion of another doctor. “I support second opinions, I actually think it’s really important,” she said. “If you think about it in life … how do you choose someone to cut your hair? You get an opinion. You usually just don’t go in and sit down with the first person you see on the street … if a patient has any questions, I support second opinions 100 percent.”