Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes are each different types of cancers. What's more, each disease has subtypes. This means that the signs of the disease, how it's diagnosed and treated and the expected outcomes vary. That's why it's essential to have the right diagnosis before you begin or continue with treatment.
You may want to get a second or third medical opinion after receiving a diagnosis and before beginning or continuing treatment, especially if you're concerned about whether a specific doctor or treatment center is right for you. It's okay to let your doctor know that you'd like a second opinion; most doctors are used to patients seeking multiple opinions and even encourage it.
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Request that your doctor send your records to the oncologist who'll be providing the second opinion. Ask your doctor if the pathologist reviewing your blood and marrow test results is a hematology-oncology specialist. If not, consider having your test results reviewed by a pathologist who specializes in hematology-oncology.
Insurance companies usually pay for second opinions and, in some cases, require them. (Check your insurance plan first, though.)
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- Your insurance company about second-opinion coverage
- During a second opinion consultation
If the second opinion you get differs from the first, ask both doctors what led them to their conclusions. You may then want to get a third opinion to help you decide what to do (again, check with your insurance provider first). Or, you may want to talk with your treatment team about what to do next.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you're not sure about whether to get a second opinion, try asking yourself these questions:
- Am I satisfied with my specialist's qualifications and experience?
- Has the specialist explained my diagnosis and treatment options in a way that I understand?
- Am I satisfied with the expertise of the medical professionals involved in determining my diagnosis, including that of the hematopathologist?
- Does the specialist's approach, treatment plan and treatment center meet my needs regarding health plan coverage and/or location?
- Do I feel comfortable asking all my questions?
- Does the specialist take the time to address my concerns respectfully and completely or do I feel rushed?
- Do the doctor's staff members seem well-informed and courteous? Are they available to help me with billing concerns, medication questions, referrals to support organizations and other information?
It's important that you and your oncologist function as a team. If you're not satisfied with your relationship with your doctor for any reason, you can look for a new doctor at any point during your treatment.
If you're considering changing your doctor, take these steps:
- Talk with your insurance company, family and friends, other healthcare providers or support group members to get recommendations for a new doctor.
- Call the new office and find out whether your insurance is accepted. Ask if the doctor is seeing new patients.
- Schedule a consultation visit.
- Arrange to have your records sent to the new doctor.
- Check with the new doctor's office before your consultation visit to make sure your records have arrived.
- Talk with your current doctor about your decision.
Remember: You have the right to change doctors. When you let your current doctor know about your decision, you don't have to give reasons. It's enough to tell him or her that you're doing what's best for you.