Yes, you usually have time to seek a second opinion after a breast cancer diagnosis.
After a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, you might think that it’s a rush to start treatment. Your doctor’s information might overwhelm and intimidate you, and you might even feel confused about what’s happening. Still, take the time to ask questions, process the information, and make informed decisions. That includes getting a second opinion from another doctor about your breast cancer.
Contrary to popular belief, there is some time in most cases to delay treatment. You should not feel pressure to accept the first treatment option your doctor suggests. In fact, there are many benefits of taking your time.
Benefits of Getting a Second Opinion for Breast Cancer
If you’re feeling overwhelmed after hearing the diagnosis, you might need some time to process the news. Getting a second opinion about your breast cancer might help you better understand what’s happening. Hearing the information from a different person in a new way might bring clarity to your diagnosis. You might pick up new information that you missed the first time.
Plus, making treatment decisions isn’t always easy. Patients sometimes worry about whether or not they are making the right choice for their specific cancer. Getting a second opinion may help you feel more confident in your decision about your breast cancer treatment. On the other hand, they may suggest an alternative option that your original doctor never mentioned. Different doctors may have different specialties or be involved in clinical trials. These alternative options may appeal to you. Either way, it’s good to hear your options.
Don’t feel guilty or like you’re “cheating” on your doctor for seeking a second opinion. Most doctors encourage taking this step and won’t be offended. They want what’s best for you, and they want you to feel confident and empowered in your decisions.
When to Seek a Second Opinion
After a breast cancer diagnosis, there is almost always a window of time where you can do what you need to make informed decisions. That includes taking the time to fully understand your diagnosis and prognosis. It also includes gathering information about your different treatment options.
There may be some cases where your doctor believes treatment is urgent. Your doctor will let you know if this is the case. (If you’re not sure, ask!) Otherwise, don’t be afraid to take a couple weeks to seek a second opinion. In many cases, it’s better to take your time to make a decision you’re confident about, than to rush into one that you’re unsure of.
Paula Klein, MD, is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dubin Breast Center of the Mount Sinai Health System.