Breast cancer is an illness that is predominant in our culture — all of us probably know at least one individual who has been touched by it in some way. In fact, this year alone, it’s estimated that 212,920 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Among these individuals, seniors will be affected most often.
So what can you do if you are diagnosed with breast cancer? Should you accept what your doctor tells you and the treatment options he/she offers you, or should you get a second opinion? According to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, getting a second opinion from a multidisciplinary board that focuses on tumors could be highly beneficial when it comes to determining the best course of action for treatment. This board is composed of various professionals that deal with breast cancer, such as oncologists, and radiologists, for example.
In the study, the researchers reviewed records on 149 patients, who were referred to the multidisciplinary breast tumor board at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Seeking a second opinion, the patients had all received a first diagnosis, along with an initial evaluation, including a biopsy and breast imaging, to determine their condition. The participants each had been given a recommendation for what type of treatment they should undergo; the recommendations came from another heath care provider or doctor at a hospital.
Among the 149 participants who went to the board, 52% of them were given one or more new treatment recommendations when it came to the type of surgery they should undergo. How could the number be as high as 52%? Well, it was due to imaging specialists interpreting each patient’s mammogram differently, as well as having the result of their biopsies reviewed by breast pathologists, who also came to a differing conclusion from that of the initial treatment recommendations made.
In the case of some participants, the changes in recommendations were made almost immediately when members of the board (medical and radiation oncologists) reviewed their case information. With the initial recommendations, the board found that new treatment techniques and therapies were not considered, and patients were not given as many options as they should have been.
As a result of having their cases reviewed by the board, 32% of the participants ultimately changed their course of treatment. Also, a fourth of the participants were told to undergo second biopsies, as the review of their first biopsies were re-interpreted differently and some cases of previously undetected cases of secondary cancers were found.
According to the study’s author, Michael Sabel, MD, “A multidisciplinary tumor board that involves the collaborative effort of multiple medical specialties allows expert opinion and recommendations based on the most recent findings. Meanwhile, the patients come to only one setting, with no need to visit multiple specialists individually.”
Currently, the University of Michigan hosts multidisciplinary clinics that focus on 11 different types of cancer. Hopefully, in the future, the medical community will recognize the beneficial influence that boards such as these can have on cancer patients. Know that asking for a second opinion is your right — and your duty — as a patient and a consumer.