When I was told that my cancer was incurable, I wanted to get a second opinion to be sure! It would be a terrible thing to die from a disease that might have been cured. Also, I wanted to know what was available outside of IU’s clinic. I had many questions.
Could we be missing something new and better than what is available locally? Was there a clinical trial showing more promise elsewhere? Is traditional chemo/radiation even the best way to treat cancer? What about alternative treatments and/or methods? Is Immunotherapy good for breast cancer patients? What is my current oncologist missing?
The list of questions goes on and on, and it felt like the only way to obtain peace of mind was to travel to a premiere clinic to officially receive a second opinion. We looked at Mayo Clinic in MN, MD Anderson in Houston, and Dana Farber in Boston. We ultimately decided on Dana Farber for their breast cancer expertise.
We called the Dana Farber Clinic and scheduled an appointment with a breast oncologist, Dr. Ken Burstein. The appointment was set for a few weeks later, and we flew to Boston the day prior. Basically, we received the exact same diagnosis/prognosis from Dana Farber, so that was enough to settle our minds and stop the wondering.
While my second opinion served only to bring me peace of mind, I know people who have benefitted greatly from obtaining a second opinion. Specifically, one woman was told they could not operate on all of her lymph node tumors due to the close proximity of a blood vessel. She didn’t accept that opinion and flew to Houston to MD Anderson for a second opinion. They looked at her tumors and felt good about proceeding with surgery. They successfully removed all of her cancerous tumors and she currently enjoys clear scans! That second opinion was literally the difference between life and death. I recommend second opinions because of this story and many others I have heard.
No matter the type of cancer diagnosis, I would recommend everyone receive a second opinion regarding treatment options. The timing, however, is very important. If the timing was wrong, I would have wasted time and money. I needed to get all of the most current Biopsy reports, body scans, and brain scans updated. I had also begun my first round of chemo, and I needed to wait to see my tumor’s reaction to that first line of therapy. These are things that a second opinion doctor needed to see. He couldn’t simply look at my original blood work or discharge papers from the ER and tell me what should be done. I waited until my first round of chemo was finished without positive response when we were deciding on the next potential treatment options. I was at a natural stopping/decision point and wanted to be sure we were headed in the right direction. For me, it was important to wait for that natural stopping point. If I had gone for the second opinion in the middle of my first round of chemo, the second opinion Dr would have just told me to wait and see. Since we were at a natural decision point, he was able to give us his proposed treatment plan for the future. I made him lay out a full long-term plan. I then compared his long-term plan to that of Dr. Schneider’s and we saw how similar they were. At that point, it was easy to stay with Dr. Schneider. Waiting for the right timing was important for me. For others, second opinions are needed immediately. Every cancer story is unique.