Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.

After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is great value in getting a second opinion from another specialist—especially one who is experienced with your particular type of cancer. The specialist can confirm the diagnosis, and can either validate or, equally important, suggest alternatives to the proposed course of treatment.

While patients are often uncomfortable asking for a second opinion, feeling that it is inappropriate to challenge their doctor’s findings and recommendations, know that a second opinion is a routine part of every doctor’s experience. Doctors almost expect their patients to get a second opinion. In fact, many insurance companies now encourage patients to seek out a second opinion prior to starting treatment.

When is a Second Opinion Especially Important?

Under certain circumstances, a second opinion is not only advisable it is imperative. It is well worth your time to get a second opinion for any of the following reasons:

  • Uncertainty about the doctor’s competence or their choice of treatment
  • Doctor has said there is no hope
  • Diagnosis is not clear
  • Recommended treatment is not clear, or the course of action is vague
  • Health care plan requires a second opinion before commencing treatment

How to Get a Second Opinion

There is a good chance your doctor will be able to recommend someone qualified to give a second opinion. Ideally, that person will be a board-certified specialist with considerable experience in your type of mesothelioma. Your health care provider may also be able to make a few recommendations.

Questions to Ask a Second Doctor

In most cases, this second doctor will have reviewed your test results and any body scans (i.e. chest x-ray, CT and/or MRI images) ordered by the primary doctor. Based on these, and a physical examination, they should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Do you agree with the diagnosis?
  • Do you agree with the treatment recommendations?
  • Do I have other options? If so, what are the benefits and risks of each?

If the second doctor agrees with the first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan, then you will have the peace of mind knowing that the journey you are about to embark on is the right one. But if the second doctor’s opinion differs, then you can take the time to consider and weigh your options. While it is important to start treatment as soon as possible, it is extremely unlikely that a delay of a week or two will have much impact on the treatment outcome. It is critical that you are comfortable with the treatment plan, and it’s worth taking the time to gather all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Next article in this series: “Should I Bring My Spouse or Friend to My Appointments?”