Madrid, June 14, 2022 – More and more cancer patients are seeking a second medical opinion to consider the different approaches available to treat their type of cancer and be able to opt for the most appropriate treatment and the option that is best suited to their physical, mental or psychological and healthcare situation. In the words of Dr. Enrique Grande, head of the Medical Oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, “a second medical opinion should never be seen as a sign of mistrust towards the colleague treating them, but rather as a way of learning more about cancer treatment alternatives which, for a variety of different reasons mainly associated to cost, are not always available but can be better adapted to each patient’s tumor”.
Being able to contrast medical opinions allows the patient to get a better understanding of their disease and of the range of treatment options available to them, without this meaning that the diagnosis or advice given was wrong. With that in mind, Dr. Grande goes on to explain that “the second opinion is a fundamental right of cancer patients and gives them a greater sense of power when making their own decisions about how they want to be treated. You can have two, three or four different opinions, all of them correct, and each one of them with their pros and cons. All things considered, it is about the patient having more than just the standard options, since there may be a variety of approaches for a particular type of cancer”.
A second opinion can also provide greater details from the anatomic pathology perspective. “When we see a second opinion patient, we generally ask for the biopsy on which the tumor diagnosis was based. And, in a significant number of cases, we suggest small changes in the histologic diagnosis which may affect the prognosis of the disease and open up the possibilities of receiving different treatments. This does not imply a error in the previous diagnosis, but rather that we can see different nuances of the disease, leading us to being in a position to offer different treatments that may not have been considered at first. It is about trying to see the cancer from different angles”, explains Dr. Grande.
In addition, having greater knowledge of the options available to them promotes patient empowerment and increases their confidence in the treatment and the professionals caring for them. As Dr. Grande points out, the patient also seeks to reaffirm that he is in good hands and that the option he has been offered is recognized by international guidelines for the management of cancer. “And the same thing happens with their relatives”, he points out, “cancer patients have their own concerns, but those around them are essential when it comes to transmitting that confidence and trust in the medical care received.”
The second opinion, a constantly changing process
Due to the continuous advancement of medicine, the concept of a second opinion is now considered part of a dynamic approach that can maximize the patient's chances of recovery. “Unfortunately, in many cases the treatment of a cancer patient must change every 3-4 months as the cancer becomes resistant to certain drugs and/or treatments. Fortunately, there are more and more therapeutic weapons, like surgical or radiation oncology techniques, proton therapy or molecular diagnosis. Being up to date on all the information has a direct impact on the options available to the patient as the tumor becomes resistant to therapy”, explains the specialist, which is why it is vital to seek specialized centers with a multidisciplinary approach, where they do not only treat cancer in general, "but are specialists in each of the specific tumors".
Second opinions were always requested soon after a patient was diagnosed, or when their hopes of recovery were running out. However, Dr. Grande suggests that "an ideal scenario is where a second opinion is sought every time a change in treatment is needed, because the options will be different as the disease progresses”.
In this search for an additional diagnosis, health professionals being fully up to date on the latest advances in oncology is essential to expanding treatment options, and this search for contrasting opinions has become commonplace in treating cancers. "We must normalize the search for other medical opinions when treating a disease to be able to provide new therapy options and adapt the treatment regimen to the patient's individual case and lifestyle”.