March 2018 Ask the Expert: Second Opinions and Metastatic Breast Cancer

March 2, 2018

Metastatic breast cancer requires ongoing tests and treatments, and will likely involve treatment changes over time. There are many treatment combinations available, and understanding why your doctor chooses one over another can sometimes be hard. At any point in your care you can ask for a second opinion: a consultation with another doctor. Getting a second opinion can give you peace of mind that you’re getting the treatment that’s best for you, or help you learn about other treatments or clinical trials.

In March, Living Beyond Breast Cancer expert William J. Gradishar, MD, FACP, answered your questions about second opinions and metastatic breast cancer, including how to get one, what to tell your current doctor about the second opinion appointment, at what point in your care it's best to ask for a second opinion, and what to ask during a second opinion.


Remember: we cannot provide diagnoses, medical consultations or specific treatment recommendations. This service is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information is general in nature. For specific healthcare questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider because treatment varies with individual circumstances. The content is not intended in any way to substitute for professional counseling or medical advice.

How do I choose a doctor to get a second opinion from?

I would seek out a physician who specializes only in breast cancer and who actively participates in clinical trials, ideally at a large referral center or academic center. The recommendation you receive [from the second opinion doctor] may be different, though even a similar recommendation may offer reassurance.

Won’t I offend my doctor if I get a second opinion?

No physician should be offended or feel challenged by a patient getting a second opinion.  

Can I get a second opinion each time my doctor wants to change my treatment plan?

You could get another opinion at each decision point. It does not mean you should if you are comfortable [with your new treatment plan]. But [if you do get a second opinion,] to determine if you are eligible for clinical trials, the opinion should be obtained prior to starting on a new treatment plan.

Could it be helpful for me to get a third opinion too?

Not necessarily. Too many opinions can lead to confusion. If you have sought a second opinion from a breast cancer expert at a referral center, that is usually sufficient to make a decision.

My doctor’s treatment plan sounds good to me. Should I get a second opinion anyway?

You are not obligated to get a second opinion if you are comfortable with your physician and the path proposed.