Many patients receive a mesothelioma diagnosis and proceed to treatment without getting a second opinion. Getting a second opinion on a mesothelioma diagnosis is important because it can confirm which treatment options are available and ensure that patients feel comfortable with their doctor.
Why Get a Second Opinion?
You should get a second opinion because mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose. Getting the opinion of more than one specialist ensures 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,” Dr. Jonathan Schaffer of the Cleveland Clinic second opinion program.
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 be stage 3 instead of stage 4, for instance. This could make surgery a new option. Surgery can extend your survival time by years.
Anytime someone has a rare condition, such as mesothelioma, a second opinion is always valuable.
Organizations like the American Cancer Society 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. By having specialists work together on your diagnosis and treatment plan, you can get the best treatment for you. It might take more than one doctor to find out if a life-prolonging surgery is right for you.
Get more information about second opinions and specialized treatment in our free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.
Even heart and lung specialists may not expect that your symptoms could be due to mesothelioma at first. Pleural mesothelioma is sometimes misdiagnosed as adenocarcinoma. This is a more common type of lung cancer with cells that look similar to mesothelioma.
Oncologists who rarely encounter this type of cancer may also misdiagnose a patient’s stage or cell type. A second opinion should come from a mesothelioma specialist.
Doctors can also misinterpret your symptoms entirely. Early pleural mesothelioma symptoms can look like asthma or acute pneumonia. The early symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma often seem like irritable bowel syndrome or peptic acid disease.
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General Oncologists Aren’t Right for Mesothelioma Patients
Most patients see a general oncologist after X-rays or CT scans reveal masses in the chest or abdomen. But mesothelioma is a rare disease that requires a team of specialists to diagnose.
General oncologists rarely, if ever, have experience with mesothelioma. They may not recognize mesothelioma cells under a microscope. A general oncologist may still misdiagnose you even if they know you have mesothelioma. They can mistake the stage or cell type of your disease.
An inaccurate diagnosis can affect your treatment options and prognosis. It can also cause a delay in receiving the proper treatment.
You need to see a specialist if a general oncologist has diagnosed you with mesothelioma.
Asking for a Second Opinion
Some patients are nervous about asking for a second opinion. They are afraid they might offend their doctor. Dr. Gregory Abel of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute says, “If you have a doctor who would be offended by a second opinion, he or she is probably not the right doctor for you.”
Here are some ways you can ask 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 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 report if you’ve had surgery
- Copies of release forms if you’ve been in the hospital
Benefits of a Second Opinion
One of the greatest benefits of getting a second opinion is that it could mean a longer life. Even if a mesothelioma specialist diagnosed you, a second opinion can reveal more options.
Statistically, 60% of second opinions lead to a different treatment. And a different treatment often leads to a better prognosis.
Some benefits of second opinions include:
- More Treatment Options: Getting a second opinion can mean the difference between a good and bad prognosis. More options may become available when a diagnosis is accurate. An accurate diagnosis means more treatment options.
- Clinical trials: Getting a second opinion by a mesothelioma specialist may open the door to a clinical trial. Clinical trials offer the latest in mesothelioma treatment. They are good for patients in all stages of mesothelioma. 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 more treatment options, you don’t have to wonder if you could have gotten better treatment.
- Taking control of your prognosis: Ultimately, you are your own best advocate for treatment. By requesting a second opinion, you are taking charge of your health. If you ask for a second opinion, you could live years past your initial prognosis.
Getting a Second Opinion
You should know first that it is not disrespectful to your doctor to get a second opinion. This is a rare disease that few doctors have expertise in. Even if you have been seeing a doctor that you trust, you should ask your doctor if they know of someone who can give you a second opinion.
Things to remember about second opinions:
- They can open up previously unexpected treatment options.
- New treatment options may extend your survival time.
- It’s up to you to advocate for a second opinion.
If your doctor doesn’t agree that you need a second opinion, they may not have your best interests in mind. Every mesothelioma patient can benefit from a second opinion. Find a top mesothelioma specialist for your second opinion today.