Whenever you are diagnosed with cancer, it is a good idea to seek a second opinion. Cancer is a complex disease, and there is often more than one way to approach treatment. Seeking a second opinion will ensure you're exploring all of your options. Hearing about your condition from two different doctors may also help you better understand the diagnosis and what it means. But what questions should you ask the oncologist when you are seeking a second opinion? Here are a few key ones to make sure you include.
How did the doctor arrive at their diagnosis?
The first oncologist who diagnosed you likely described to you how they knew you had the condition. Ask the oncologist who is giving you a second opinion to do the same. Did they see the same thing in the test results as the first doctor? Or, did they note some symptoms or changes that the first doctor had overlooked?
Are they willing to work in collaboration with the first oncologist?
Sometimes two oncologists will agree to work together on the case. If you like some things that you heard from the first doctor but have also found the second doctor's insight helpful, this is something you can request. Having two doctors bounce ideas off one another can be really helpful when treating cancer since every case is different and some creativity is often called for in developing a treatment plan.
Would they recommend you see a different type of specialist?
Sometimes if an oncologist takes a look and mostly agrees with the first oncologist, they may recommend that you see a different type of specialist for more insight. For example, if you have bone cancer, they may want you to see an orthopedic specialist to see what they think. Ask them what insights you may gain from seeing such a specialist, and see if they can recommend someone.
How soon should you begin treatment?
With some cancers, it is essential to begin treatment ASAP, so you don't want to waste much time getting additional opinions or over-considering your options. With other cancers, you have a little more time to spare, so your oncologist may have more time to collaborate with your original doctor, contact other specialists, and so forth. It helps to know what kind of timeline you are on from the get-go.
If you ask the oncologist the questions above, you will get more out of your second-opinion appointment.