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Getting a Second Opinion

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is often misdiagnosed, which can delay lifesaving treatments and reduce survival rates. Medical experts recommend anyone who has ever been exposed to asbestos and is diagnosed with chest or abdominal cancer receive a second opinion.

Most regular oncologists do not have experience with diagnosing and treating asbestos cancer. Some oncologists may not understand the importance of mesothelioma-specific treatment plans. Others may not realize the importance of fast treatment.

Mesothelioma is very difficult to treat properly so it is vital for patients to seek the services of a skilled mesothelioma specialist.

Barriers To A Second Opinion

Some patients avoid taking the crucial step of a second opinion because they feel they are betraying the diagnosing physician or are shy about possibly offending the doctor.

Rest assured, medical professionals expect patients to seek second opinions, especially when dealing with the possibility of such a rare type of cancer.

Many doctors will recommend a second opinion to put patients at ease. A second opinion could make a difference in the patient’s prognosis.

Why Get a Second Opinion?

A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found 88 percent of patients who seek a second opinion receive new or updated care plans with potentially lifesaving benefits. At the same time, only 12 percent of patients receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was accurate and complete.

The American Cancer Society recommends anyone with a rare or unusual cancer seek a second opinion, particularly if the doctor is not a specialist.

Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos — even if it was decades ago — and diagnosed with cancer should consider a second opinion. A misdiagnosis can delay life-saving treatments and the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.

Experts recommend a second opinion for several reasons:

  • It provides assurances for patients and families the diagnosis fits the treatment plan.
  • It can provide improved treatment options.
  • It can improve the overall prognosis.
  • It places control back into the patient’s hands through self-advocacy.

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How to Get a Second Opinion

When diagnosed with cancer, many doctors will recommend their patients pursue a second opinion. If not, the simplest way to broach the subject is to ask directly:

  • I would like a second opinion. Can you recommend someone?
  • I would like to explore all my treatment options, so I would like to get a second opinion. Can you help me find the best doctor?
  • I respect your opinion, but I would like to seek a second opinion. Can you direct me to a doctor you would recommend?

Many asbestos cancer patients have turned to our Patient Advocates for assistance seeking a second opinion. They have connections with the leading mesothelioma specialists nationwide for fast access to a second-opinion doctor.

What to Expect from a Second Opinion

A second opinion is intended to be an assessment of the previous diagnosis and an appraisal of the proposed treatment plan. It is important to be forthcoming about details about the diagnosis and proposed treatment plan with the second-opinion doctor.

Patients are advised to keep copies of all medical records for personal use. For the second opinion, bring the following information to the appointment:

  • Complete copy of medical records from the diagnosing doctor.
  • Copy of reports from biopsies, surgeries or any medical procedures.
  • Hospital discharge papers if hospitalization was involved.
    Summary of current (or proposed) treatment plan.
  • List of all current medication, including dosages and schedules.
  • A prepared list of questions about the disease.
  • Pen and paper to take notes.

For a second opinion, mesothelioma specialists may want to take new imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRIs, for further investigation. Specialist may also order new tests that include a thoracentesis to remove lung fluids for examination, and thoracoscopy for a close-up view of the chest cavity. Patients are advised to contact their health insurance companies to make sure the new procedures are covered.

In many cases, mesothelioma patients will receive a second opinion that differs from the first. That’s because mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed initially. Specialists have a better understanding of the rare disease.

With a new diagnosis comes a new treatment plan. Patients who are diagnosed in the early stages of the cancer (stages I, II and sometimes III) have more treatment options that can extend life expectancy.

How We Can Help

Seeking a second opinion is important for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and spent time near asbestos. Even though mesothelioma is a slow-moving disease (it takes decades to develop), getting an accurate diagnosis and quick treatment is imperative.

Our patient advocates help asbestos-cancer victims connect with specialists for the best treatment options. Contact us today for more information.

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