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Quick Guide For A Second Opinion In Cancer Care

Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Posted October 6, 2015

Being diagnosed with a cancer can be emotionally stressful for you and your loved ones. One may be diagnosed with a new cancer, or with a recurrence after years of being in remission. With rapid developments in science, many world-class institutions tend to specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of certain types of cancers. It is hence not uncommon to seek a second opinion or even visit such health centers of excellence, for further treatment options. However, in many instances, seeking care in a specialized center may not be necessary and your current cancer team may be the best treatment option for you.

In case a decision is made to seek a second opinion, the following information will help one organize his/her healthcare data, which can assist in treatment plans in the new institution.  The list below will also aid in avoiding unnecessary duplication of tests, decrease the cost of care, and help save valuable time.

  • Detailed history and physical notes from your primary care doctor and other specialists
  • Complete details of your previous surgery (if any), including the surgeon’s office and operative notes
  • Discharge summary from a hospital, if you were admitted to a hospital
  • Paper copy of all your radiology tests, such as X-rays, CT, MRI, and ultrasound scans, and PET scan reports
  • A DVD copy of all your radiology tests: It is very easy these days to create a DVD copy of all the radiology procedures
  • A copy of pathology reports on your tissue biopsy, such as fine needle aspiration reports, punch biopsy, tissue biopsy, bone marrow biopsies, special tests performed on the tissue biopsy that may include cytogenetic testing, molecular testing, flow cytometric analysis, and gene profiling testing
  • A copy of summary of radiation therapy, including the radiation oncologist office notes, number of doses (cycles) of radiation, and type of radiation therapy administered
  • A list of all chemotherapy medications (oral and intravenous), immunotherapy, targeted therapy, the number of doses and frequency

It is your right to seek a second opinion. Many institutions may charge a nominal fee for getting these reports ready. In many cases, you may have to request the above reports in writing. The health records department of the hospitals can also assist you in understanding the process for collecting and compiling such healthcare information. It is also helpful to keep a log of all the physicians visited.

Given the fact that there are many different types of insurance products, your insurance company may require you to pay higher out-of-pocket expenses, if you seek care outside your current insurance network. It is always helpful to contact the customer service of the insurance company before you seek care at another facility.

In summary, having an organized information package will help you transfer your care to a specialized cancer center seamlessly.