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Want A Second Opinion On Chemotherapy?

If you seek a second opinion, you present two trained professionals with all the facts about your situation, from the diagnosis to the recommended treatment plan, and compare what they say. The doctors may agree, which should boost your confidence about the plan. The doctors may not agree, in which case you need to understand exactly what the points of disagreement are in order to make the best decision.

Whether you get a second opinion may be up to you, or it may be a decision that your insurance company makes for you. Some insurance companies require a second opinion. Even those that don't require it may pay for a visit with another physician if you choose to get another opinion. Before you seek a second opinion, check with your insurance company.

If you are unsure where to go for a second opinion, consider these options:

  1. Ask your doctor to recommend another oncologist.
  2. Call another doctor on your insurance plan.
  3. Call a nearby hospital or medical school.
  4. Check with the Cancer Information Service, a service of the National Cancer Institute.
  5. Ask a friend or co-worker who has been treated for cancer.

Sometimes, in the course of seeking a second opinion, you may meet a doctor who, for any number of reasons, appeals to you more than the oncologist you originally had chosen. If that happens and you are confused whether to switch doctors, remember to think of yourself as a consumer of healthcare. You have the right to spend your money with a doctor who makes you feel confident and comfortable, so if you want to make a change, do so.

Changing doctors is a business decision, not a personal one, even if your reasons for wanting to change strike you as personal. When you have returned to your original oncologist or made the decision to switch, you can start attending to the details of your treatment.

You Must Decide What Is Best For Yourself

In some instances, your treatment plan may include specific choices. For instance, there may be two types of treatment that work especially well for the kind of cancer that you have. One anticancer drug may be administered over a shorter period of time and cause more troubling side effects than the second option, which may require a longer treatment period. Your doctor should present all the pros and cons and give you a few days to make the decision.

If you are comfortable deciding after you have read all the material you have been given and had all your questions answered, so be it. If you don't want the responsibility of deciding, you can always ask the doctor which treatment he would choose for a family member. That sounds like a trick question, but it isn't, so ask away.

Knowing The Right Questions To Ask

At this point, you will have lots of questions. One particularly difficult question is whether you choose to proceed with chemotherapy at all. For most people, the answer to that question is a no-brainer. No one wants to have chemotherapy, of course, but people who hope that it will kill their cancer choose it. For others, the answer may be influenced by religious or philosophical beliefs, and they may choose not to move forward. That decision creates a difficult situation for the doctor, who is left holding a discarded solution to a very serious problem.

If you do decide to proceed with chemotherapy, some of your questions at this point will be specific and have to do with the near future. Some of the questions will be more general and deal with the months, even years, to come. Your doctor should be able to answer some of the specific questions, but only time will answer some of the others.

For instance, you may want to know right now whether chemotherapy will make you ill and, if so, how ill, and what can be done if that happens. The doctor likely will be able to answer only the last part of that question. Going through cancer treatments is different for everyone. Not only that, but the second round of chemotherapy may affect you differently than the first and third. No one can predict exactly what will happen.

Still, you can ask - and ask often - what may happen and what you can expect as you go through chemotherapy. And at every step along the way, you can ask why you are experiencing certain side effects and what to do about them.

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