Second opinions from cancer surgeons
Should I get a second opinion from another surgeon?
If an oncologist has referred you to a particular surgeon, you'll want to check out that surgeon's credentials and, if possible, interview her.
Whether you accept that surgeon depends on the type of cancer and how common the indicated surgical procedure is. If the cancer is in the early stage and the advised procedure is common, it may not be necessary to get a second opinion or to look for a specialist.
However, if the cancer is a rare type or has invaded the surrounding tissues in a way that makes the surgery tricky, it's a good idea to look for a surgeon who has extensive experience performing that specific type of surgery.
How will I know whether I have the right surgeon?
If you have a choice of surgeons, start by looking for someone who has treated the particular form of cancer. The questions you might ask when choosing a surgeon include:
- How often do you perform this type of surgery?
- How many of these procedures have you performed?
- What's the overall success rate for this type of surgery?
- What's the success rate for those surgeries that you've performed?
What else should I find out from the surgeon?
You'll want to talk to the surgeon about other issues, such as what to expect when the patient undergoes the procedure. This kind of information can affect important treatment decisions.
If the patient is extremely frail, for example, and you discover that the surgery is very demanding, the recovery time long, and the percentage of patients with positive outcomes low, you might rethink your treatment options. To zero in on this information, ask the surgeon to list all of the risks and complications, even rare ones, and also ask for a realistic estimate on recovery time.