Metastatic breast cancer: Should you get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help make sure your treatment plan is the best option for your cancer.

If you've been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it's always OK to get a second opinion. A second opinion is when you ask another breast cancer specialist to look at your case. The specialist then gives you an opinion about your diagnosis and treatment options.

A second opinion may be the same as your original diagnosis and treatment plan. This can give you peace of mind. A second opinion may also provide more details about your breast cancer and other treatment options for you to consider.

Why get a second opinion?

There are many reasons to get a second opinion. A new cancer diagnosis is reason enough.

If you have multiple treatment options, a second opinion can help you choose which are best for you. A second opinion can also help if your provider is uncertain about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Plus, some insurance companies require you receive a second opinion before treatment begins.

When should you get a second opinion?

After a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, it's common to feel uneasy and want to start treatment immediately. However, it's important to make sure your treatment plan is best for you — which might mean getting a second opinion before treatment begins.

It can take a few weeks to get a second opinion. In most cases, it's ok to not start treatment right away. But always talk with your doctor or healthcare provider first to determine how long you can delay treatment. Even if you've started treatment, it's not too late to get a second opinion.

How do you get a second opinion?

Start by asking your doctor or healthcare provider. Physicians are used to patients asking for a second opinion. Most doctors welcome the input of another expert to make sure you get the most effective care.

You may want to find a breast cancer specialist who works as part of a team that includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists. Make sure all your records are sent to the doctor offering a second opinion.

Doctors usually want to do an in-person exam before providing a second opinion. However, some offer online second-opinion-services after reviewing your health records. Just be sure to check if your insurance will cover the expense.

If two opinions are similar, other cancer specialists will probably give you the same diagnosis. Don't waste your time by seeing several different doctors who may all tell you the same thing.

You may not want to get a second opinion, and that's ok. If you are confident in your doctor's judgement, have researched your cancer and are comfortable with your treatment plan — then you may decide to forgo a second opinion. Working with your healthcare providers, family members or friends can help you decide what is best.

March 23, 2021 See more In-depth

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  90. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
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