Today, we know that there are various ways to view a cancer diagnosis, with varying levels of expertise and often, several methods of managing treatment. There are also many potentially life-saving clinical trials that could be the right fit for patients—if they can find them.
The medical community has embraced the need for second opinions and the sharing of information across networks. This approach increasingly puts patients at the center of the decision-making process and makes it critical that patients can deliver their records into the right hands.
When a breast cancer second opinion is recommended
If you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ve probably had a conversation with your doctor about your pathology report. If you have been diagnosed with stage I or stage II breast cancer, treatment options may be relatively straightforward. Depending on the diagnosis, there may be pressure to act immediately. In some cases, your doctor may want to schedule a surgery to remove the cancer or start a treatment right away. In other cases, there may be more time to make decisions. Either way, you should feel like you are with the right doctor and at a hospital or center that is best equipped to offer the best cancer care for you.
The American College of Surgeons recommends that patients use the Commission on Cancer (CoC) Hospital Locator to identify accredited cancer programs. It allows patients to find and compare resources and services offered by facilities in every state.
Seeking a second opinion
When planning to get a breast cancer second opinion, it’s best to check with your insurance company. Some companies may even require a second opinion before a procedure or treatment. There are also a growing number of cancer centers that offer second opinions online. These are often not covered by insurance, so it’s advisable to check in each case.
During the process of seeking a second opinion, some patients are worried that they will offend their existing doctor or aren’t sure how to begin the conversation. Breastcancer.org has advice to help patients start that discussion. While your doctor may suggest a colleague, many patients prefer seeking out a separate organization that may have an entirely different approach to treatment.
To find a doctor or an organization for a breast cancer second opinion, patients can check with other hospitals or centers that provide cancer treatment. The following organizations are helpful with assessing options and finding specialists:
- American Board of Medical Specialties
- American Medical Association
- American College of Surgeons
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
As you prepare for your visit, it’s best to formulate a list of questions specific to your original diagnosis and conversation. The ACS provides patients with a series of specific questions to ask about breast cancer, which can be a good place to start. These include:
- Is the diagnosis correct?
- What are my choices?
- What if I wait or choose no treatment?
Take notes from your original appointment, and plan to follow up to fully compare all options after your second opinion.
Compiling data for the best outcomes
Sharing all your pertinent medical records is essential when seeking a second opinion. However, navigating the records compilation process can be time consuming and cause delays in treatment. Files are often slow to arrive, are offered in incompatible formats, or aren’t codified for doctors to easily review. Some physicians opt to repeat tests rather than wait for records to arrive. Patients may also miss out on the ability to enroll in a clinical trial because their records aren’t in the right place at the right time.
To prevent the frustration and ensure access to clinical trials, many patients are turning to Ciitizen, a free service that aggregates data for speedy consultations and has made it a mission to match patients with clinical trials. The platform is designed to ease the burden on both patients and doctors by automatically scanning and organizing patient health records into a user profile that gives patients easy portability for their records and gives oncologists quick access to information like clinical stage, tumor size, potential metastases, and other vital data.
Ciitizen also has an opt-in Clinical Trials Program, currently open to advanced or metastatic breast cancer patients, that scans through hundreds of trial options and creates a comprehensive, unbiased, and customized report of all the trials that match a patient’s unique treatment history and geographical location.
Patients who have been through the process now advise others about the importance of taking charge of their records. In addition to alleviating stress for the patient, it also simplifies the process for caregivers and family members who may benefit from the hassle-free approach of records management and the easily shared information.
Ciitizen works with various organizations, including IQIVA, the world’s largest clinical research organization; METAvivor, a non-profit organization that funds metastatic breast cancer research; and Breastcancer.org, which is the leading patient-focused resource for breast health and breast cancer information and support. Many patients use Ciitizen because it’s a free service for patients, takes under five minutes to enroll, and offers a data networking option aimed at finding cures.
Ciitizen is a free service that helps patients get more out of their health records. Our platform enables patients to find better treatment options and gives them the opportunity to advance the research for cures. Ready to control all of your medical records in one place? Sign up today in less than 5 minutes!