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How is a second opinion must in the fight against cancer?

Cancer is the second most common cause of death across the world. Cancer remains a major hazard to our society despite advancements in the medical world and the treatment options available today. The incidence of cancer in India is around 2.5 million. About 1.25 million new cases registering every year and nearly 800,000 deaths related to the disease.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, first question is getting the best oncologist and also the best treatment. After consulting a doctor, it’s normal that you may feel that another doctor could offer more information or treatment option.

Collective Cancer Care

Cancer care often involves a group or collective approach. Your doctor might have discussed your case with other doctors. This is often the case if your doctor considers surgery or radiation therapy as possible treatments for your cancer. However, sometimes, you may consult with different experts yourself.

Many hospitals in India have committees called a tumor board. This board consists of doctors, surgeons, radiation therapy doctors, nurses, and others. They conduct a meeting to discuss cancer cases and their treatment. Doctors of different cancer specialities review x-rays and pathology together and exchange ideas about the best treatment.

Why get a second opinion?

The second opinion is the practice of a patient seeking an alternate evaluation of their diagnosis and course of treatment by other specialist doctors to confirm and validate their treatment. Getting a second opinion can help you feel more confident about your diagnosis and treatment. You should not worry about getting a second opinion on your treatment plan as the stakes are pretty high, and it always helps to be doubly sure. It is also essential that the second opinion must be taken from an expert oncologist or a panel of multidisciplinary expert oncologists to get the best opinion. 

You may opt for a second opinion for the following reasons:

  • Confirm your diagnosis.
  • Doctor is not sure about your type or stage of cancer.
  • You want to make sure that you are receiving the best treatment.
  • To additionally explore advanced treatment options available to you. 
  • You want to explore an alternative treatment.
  • If not confident with your current treatment plan.
  • You don’t understand what your doctor is saying.
  • Have a rare type of cancer.
  • Your doctor is not an expert in treating your type of cancer.
  • Insurance company suggests you get another opinion before the treatment.

Does a second opinion help?

Studies have shown that up to 30 percent of patients who went for a second opinion have found that their initial treatment advice did not match with the alternate suggestion and in most cases, the latter proved more beneficial. Although taking second opinions is not a new concept, it has been gaining popularity in recent times as a medical service. It is pretty common for patients to seek second opinions, especially for life-threatening illnesses like cancer,

In India, there is only one cancer specialist for 2,000 cancer patients. Most doctors are available only in metro cities; the quality of cancer care is the most significant problem patients face, leading to poor results. In a disease like cancer, when one doesn’t have enough time, the proper treatment is as necessary as the treatment itself as there is no scope for a second chance for most patients. Hence, it is prudent to get a multidisciplinary second opinion to ensure the best chances of recovery.

According to a study published in the year 2018 more than 80 per cent of cancer patients who availed of a second opinion got benefit in terms of a better understanding of their diagnosis and 40 percent of patients had a change in their treatment plan.

It is the right of every cancer patient to be fully informed about their diagnosis and the best treatment options available for them. Also, unbiased second opinions can help empower patients with all the available options to validate the course of their treatment and provide them with a sense of confidence to march forward in their fight against the disease.

Conclusion

Cancer is a severe disease and requires a multidisciplinary approach to treating a patient. However, there are many challenges to adopting such an approach in India due to the lack of access to expert oncologists, advanced treatment centers, and affordability. For treatment, it is recommended to consider a multidisciplinary review consisting of a team of doctors, including three specialities – surgical, medical, and radiation oncology.

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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