Many patients receive a mesothelioma misdiagnosis and proceed to treatment without getting a second opinion. Getting a mesothelioma second opinion after a diagnosis is important because it can confirm what treatment options are available and ensure that you feel comfortable with your doctor.
Why Get a Mesothelioma Second Opinion?
You should get a second opinion because mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose. Getting the opinion of more than one specialist will help ensure you get the right treatment.
You should consider getting a second opinion if you:
- Don’t feel 100% comfortable with your doctor
- Need peace of mind about your diagnosis
- Are looking for more treatment options
- Have been told there’s little to no hope
- Want to take control of your diagnosis
The last point is one of the most important.
“Having additional information about your diagnosis and treatment can only be helpful. Most importantly, as a patient, it is your right to seek a medical second opinion. You are your own best advocate."
—Jonathan Schaffer, Cleveland Clinic
Get more information about second opinions and specialized treatment in our Free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.
Can a Mesothelioma Second Opinion Change My Treatment Options?
Yes, there are many ways a second opinion can change your treatment options. For example, the doctor may find that your disease is less advanced than previously thought. You could have stage 3 mesothelioma instead of stage 4 mesothelioma. This could make mesothelioma surgery a viable treatment option and possibly help extend your life expectancy.
Anytime someone has a rare condition such as mesothelioma, a second opinion is valuable.
Organizations like the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend getting a second opinion if you have a rare cancer. Mesothelioma is one of the rarest cancers affecting U.S. veterans. Getting a second or even third opinion for a rare cancer can reduce the chances of misdiagnosis.
Mesothelioma specialists don't always agree on the best way to treat a patient. Because mesothelioma is so rare, treatment is changing all the time. Having a team of specialists work together to determine your diagnosis can help confirm your eligibility for certain procedures.
For instance, it might take more than one doctor to decide whether a life-prolonging surgery is right for you.
Even experienced heart and lung specialists may not expect that your symptoms could be caused by mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is sometimes misdiagnosed as adenocarcinoma. This is a more common type of lung cancer with cells that look similar to mesothelioma.
It's also possible that your doctor could misinterpret your symptoms entirely. For example, early pleural mesothelioma symptoms can look like asthma or acute pneumonia. The early symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma often resemble irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or peptic ulcer disease.
Asking for a Second Opinion
Some patients are nervous about asking for a second opinion. They are afraid they might offend their doctor. However, a reputable doctor should understand your need to get an accurate diagnosis and do all they can to help you.
"If you have a doctor who would be offended by a second opinion, they are probably not the right doctor for you."
—Dr. Gregory Abel, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Here are some ways you can ask your doctor for a second opinion:
- “Before I get any treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Can you help me with that?”
- “Can you recommend a specialist for a second opinion?”
- “I’d like to get a second opinion to make sure I have all my options covered.”
There are also documents you should prepare before your second opinion appointment.
Here’s what you'll need to bring to your appointment:
- All pathology reports from your initial diagnosis
- Copies of your current treatment plan
- List of all medications, doses, and how long you’ve been taking them
- Copies of operation reports if you’ve had surgery
- Copies of release forms if you've been in the hospital
You can also prepare for your appointment by downloading our Free Checklist of Questions to Ask Your Doctor.
Benefits of Mesothelioma Second Opinions
One of the greatest benefits of getting a second opinion is that it could mean more time spent with your loved ones. Even if a mesothelioma specialist diagnosed you, a second opinion could reveal more (or better) treatment options.
Statistically, 60% of second opinions lead to a different treatment. And a different treatment often leads to a better prognosis.
Other benefits of mesothelioma second opinions include:
- Eligibility for clinical trials: Getting a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist could open the door to clinical trials. Clinical trials offer the latest in mesothelioma treatment. Some mesothelioma patients have clinical trials to thank for their long-term survival.
- Peace of mind: Second opinions can relieve anxiety. They give patients confidence in their diagnosis and treatment plan. Even if your second diagnosis doesn’t present new treatment options, you won't have the added stress of wondering if you could have gotten better treatment.
- Better control of your prognosis: Ultimately, you are your own best advocate for treatment. By requesting a mesothelioma second opinion, you are taking charge of your health. If you ask for a second opinion, you could live past your initial mesothelioma prognosis.
Get a Mesothelioma Second Opinion Today
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that requires specialized expertise. Even if you have been seeing a doctor whom you trust, you should ask if they know of someone who can give you a second opinion.
Here's what to remember about mesothelioma second opinions:
- They can open up previously unexpected treatment options.
- New treatment options may extend your survival time.
- It’s your right to advocate for a second opinion.
Every mesothelioma patient can benefit from a second opinion.If your doctor doesn’t agree that you need a second opinion, they may not have your best interests in mind.
FAQs About Mesothelioma Second Opinions
Can mesothelioma be misdiagnosed?
Yes, mesothelioma can be mistaken for other illnesses because it shares similar symptoms. Also, it may not be the first condition that doctors think of.
If you're a veteran who was exposed to asbestos during your military service, you should seek out a second opinion if you're experiencing symptoms associated with mesothelioma.
What diseases mimic mesothelioma?
Lung cancer, lymphoma, and metastatic adenocarcinoma are just a few examples of diseases that cause symptoms similar to those of malignant pleural mesothelioma.