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Cancer? Get A Second Opinion

Researchers feel that a second opinion is very vital for cancer patients as this would help improve the type of treatment and it should surely be taken before undergoing// surgery.

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center wanted to find out whether cancer diagnosis and treatment differed with specialists. The records of 149 breast cancer patients diagnosed elsewhere was referred to the center's tumor board for a second opinion. The result was startling as treatment recommendations for 77 (almost 52 %) were different. The tumor board consisted of specialists from pathology, radiology and oncology.

Change in opinion was seen in all aspects beginning from interpretation of mammograms to the necessity for mastectomy. In most cases an additional cancer site was found. 6 out of 149 patients had residual cancer, 1 patient’s cancer was upgraded from benign to invasive cancer. The report of this study was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Cancer.

All of them had undergone all tests required for a diagnosis and all arrived with biopsy slides, X-rays and a surgeon’s recommendation at the cancer center for a second opinion.

“The number did surprise me — that there were actually half the patients who had a change in management,” said Dr. Michael S. Sabel, the lead author of the paper and a oncologist at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “But a lot of it just has to do with having a second pair of eyes. Having two radiologists read a mammogram is better than one.”

Multidisciplinary tumor boards, include surgeons and nurses and cancer doctors who specialize in treatment and diagnosis. The team of specialists reviews all cases before arriving at a decision. Dr. Sabel said that such boards are routinely used by many hospitals and specialized cancer centers.

A second view of the images of 11% patients resulted in a change in surgical procedures. Differences in inte rpreting biopsies led to changes for l 9 percent.

The tumor board also found that breast conservation surgery was better for 5 women earlier advised mastectomy and recommended mastectomy for 2 women who were earlier advised breast conservation.

The message here is that when a woman has a cancer diagnosis, getting a second opinion does well for her health and also for her money.

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