After her breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy in 2004, Cheryl Hartman of Lilburn, GA, needed to see an oncologist for further treatment. She set up an appointment with the doctor her surgeon recommended.
“This oncologist was so focused on doing chemotherapy that he didn’t listen to me when I said I didn’t want it," she says. "He was also upset that my mother only had radiation, even though she was a 9-year survivor of her cancer.”
Hartman looked for a second opinion. The second oncologist she saw also suggested chemotherapy. But this time, the conversation went differently.
“I told her that I was not a fan of chemotherapy, and she said, ‘I believe chemotherapy works. But I also believe that you need to believe in your treatment.’”
After her doctor explained the science behind her treatment options, Hartman agreed to be part of a study. Her treatment was successful.
“I was incredibly glad that I changed oncologists,” Hartman says. “I could have gone to the first oncologist, lived my life based in fear, and gone through chemotherapy if I had not listened to my gut reaction. My cancer was in 2004 and I’ve had no recurrence, so I now am considered a survivor.”
Jason Parrish of Fairfield, CT, sought a second opinion after his doctor told him he’d only need radiation to treat his testicular cancer. He wanted reassurance he was doing enough.
“The first oncologist was a radiologist and said he could handle all treatment. I went to see a doctor who did chemotherapy to make sure he agreed radiation was really all I needed. He said, ‘You don't need me, you're in great hands.’ It was a good experience and gave me peace of mind.”
For Hartman, getting a second opinion was a matter of not connecting with or feeling heard by a doctor. For Parrish, it was a double-check that gave him more confidence in his treatment choice.
Your reason for getting a second doctor to weigh in on your cancer diagnosis and care may be as simple as wanting as much information as possible. But you may also want another opinion to:
- Make sure your diagnosis is right
- Find out more about the type, stage, and location of your cancer
- Talk to a doctor with expertise in your cancer
- Explore other treatment options
- See what clinical trials might work for you