Doctor Speaks: Don’t Hesitate to Seek a 2nd Opinion on Your Cancer Diagnosis

A second opinion can be the key to a treatment approach that will allow for better outcomes, says Dr Deepak Sarin.

2 min read
Guest Author :Dr Deepak Sarin

A cancer diagnosis can prove to be overwhelming. Patients deal with a range of emotions, from fear to denial, acceptance, and resolve.

Often patients and their families seek a second opinion to ensure that they are receiving a 360-degree treatment approach and the best possible care and advice.

Many a times, a second opinion can result in the adoption of a treatment approach, which will allow for better outcomes.

There are many reasons why a second opinion on a cancer diagnosis can prove to be beneficial, the foremost being that nowadays, cancer treatment is organ specific.

One specialist can no longer treat all types of cancers.

The field, knowledge, and expertise of treatment has expanded, because of which many patients consult site specific, specialised doctors for treatment.


A Strong, Comprehensive Multispecialty Plan

Site specific surgeon, radiation oncology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, nuclear medicine, and other core specialties need to work in tandem for a successful outcome.

Therefore, getting a second opinion is important, especially when multi-modality care is available, and all experts can come together to chalk out a way forward.

In many cases, a treatment plan is decided based on an interplay of three pillars – the type of cancer, the overall health and age of the patient, and the specialty and expertise of the treating consultant or available resources.

India is a vast country where medical resouces are distributed very unevenly. Some areas of the country have excellent access to the latest therapies and technologies while others do not.

Therefore, a second opinion will prove to be helpful, it will make one more aware of the all treatment options and approaches available to them including those not in their immediate vicinity.

In short, a second opinion is effective in ensuring that different medical opinions and perspectives are shared with the patient, via which they can make an informed decision regarding their treatment.

Herein lies the essence of multi-modality therapy – working with different specialties to ensure that patients and survivors continue to have a long-term quality of life.

Some examples of the same include awake surgery with intra-operative neuro-navigation; limb-sparing surgery for sarcomas with intra-operative brachytherapy (a type of radiation therapy); advanced oral reconstruction following surgery for mouth cancer, robotic surgery for certain cancers, and breast conservation surgery followed by radiation for breast cancer.

Psychological Aspect of Seeking Second Opinion

We always need re-enforcement when it comes to our decisions and that is most relevant when finalising on a treatment plan for cancer.

A sound second opinion can often help confirm that the pathway chosen is the best available option.

To paraphrase a famous saying, “when treating cancer not only should the best decision be taken, it should feel to the patient to have been taken”.

That motivates a patient to strive strongly through his treatment and rehabilitation process.

(The author, Dr Deepak Sarin is the Director of Head and Neck Oncology at the Cancer Institute, Medanta Hospital Gurgaon.)

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Guest Author :Dr Deepak Sarin
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