The Importance of a 2nd Opinion

The Importance of a 2nd Opinion – Interview on “iHeart Radio”

Why do people need a 2nd opinion?

In the rush to treat the cancer for someone who is newly diagnosed, there is a whirlwind of overwhelm and confusion.  In many instances, there isn’t even time to mentally and emotionally process the diagnosis, and people get swept away with the tyranny of the urgent. 

What makes for a good 2nd opinion?

*  A 2nd opinion should be an unbiased look at your individual cancer situation.  There are many sub-types of cancer.  It’s not just lung cancer, what type of lung cancer is it?  What are the genetic markers of your specific tumor(s)?  Cancer care is complex and can get complicated very quickly.

*  The 2nd opinion should be from an oncologist outside of the practice you are currently using.  For example, if you are being treated/seeing a doctor at XYZ cancer center, then your 2nd opinion should be from a physician outside of that practice.  It helps decrease bias.

*  Ideally, the 2nd opinion should be from a National Cancer Institute.

What is a National Cancer Institute and Why do you Recommend Them?

*  There are 71 NCI’s in the U.S. located within 36 states, and they all operate under the NIH umbrella.  NCI’s have met rigorous standards for multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art research, and are focused on developing new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.

*  I’ve worked at several NCI’s in my career, as well as regional and local cancer centers.  NCI’s offer the latest cutting-edge research available, and the level of care is night & day.

*  If you happen to live close to an NCI, I’d absolutely chose to be treated there.

*  If you don’t live close to a NCI, I would – at a bare minimum – seek a 2nd opinion at a National Cancer Institute – and there are several reasons why:

               *  Their scanning equipment is more up to date.

               *  They have dedicated oncology radiologist who specialize in recognizing cancer on scans – it’s what they do all day long.

               *  The doctors are dedicated to ongoing research and are specialized.  Meaning, you could meet with an oncologist that specializes in your specific type of cancer, i.e., breast cancer, cervical cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer.  Many times, at a local or regional level, the oncologist treats everything so there isn’t always a specialist for your specific disease process.

               *  Lastly, let’s say the 2nd opinion at a NCI agrees with your local oncologists plan of care.  That’s great reassurance that you are doing the best you can to treat your particular cancer. But, God forbid, something should happen and you take a turn for the worse – you are already established with the NCI and you can reach back out to them if complications ensue.  It’s about being proactive vs reactive.

How does someone go about finding a National Cancer Institute?

You can click this link right here Or, on the Resource page of, the 2nd resource listed is a link to finding a NCI near you. Once you click the link, click the map and then choose the state you live in to help narrow down your search.

Speaking of resources…There is so much misinformation and doom-and-gloom on the internet today.  It’s one of the reasons I started Nurse Adina.  People don’t know, what they don’t know.  They don’t know which resources are reliable and trustworthy.  Every resource on my page has been vetted by me.  I don’t have corporate sponsors swaying my thoughts.  I look at the science and follow the evidence – not fads – not trends. 

What if people don’t live near a National Cancer Institute?

There are 2 options:

*  Some NCI’s do have affiliate programs, such as Duke Cancer Center and MD Anderson.  So, if you don’t live near a NCI, do some research with the local cancer centers in your area and see if they are affiliated with a NCI (or more commonly known as a major cancer center such as Duke). 

*  If you don’t have a NCI near you, Stanford Medicine Online 2nd Opinion Program is another fabulous resource.  It allows you to create an online account and tell them about your situation.  They will collect your medical records (if you’ve been treated here in the U.S.) and an expert from Stanford Medicine will review your care and send you and your local oncologist their written recommendations. 

*  The cost is about $700.  And while insurance companies do typically cover 2nd opinions, they do not cover online 2nd opinions, so this is an out-of-pocket expense.  However, you might be able to pay for the service using your HAS or FSA funds but check with them first .

How do doctor’s typically respond when their patient wants the advice of another physician – besides themselves?

Most physicians understand and don’t get their feathers ruffled if their patient wants a 2nd opinion.  I encourage my clients to keep the focus on themselves and use “I” statements.  For example, “I feel like I need to get a 2nd opinion just so I know that I have exhausted all my options and that I am making the best decision possible for myself.  I would really like your help and support in making this possible.”

Part of working with Nurse Adina is helping clients talk with the oncology team.  I help clients ask good questions when they are at their appointments and teach them how to advocate for themselves.  A lot of times in cancer care – this is their life we are talking about.  And while the HCW’s in oncology work with cancer every day – it can become 2nd nature to us…but that is not true for the patient or client – it’s all new to them and they are trying to wrap their heads around everything that is happening.

One of the things I hear from clients all the time is “I seem to understand what they are saying when I am at my appointment, but when I get home, I can’t remember what they said.  It frustrates my family because I can’t convey what’s happening.”  Nurse Adina is like having an oncology nurse in your back pocket.  I work for you….not a healthcare system….not an insurance company….you!

As a private patient advocate – I am the clients anchor and walk him or her through the diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond.  And it is an honor and privilege to hold their hand during a very scary time in their life.

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