Diagnosed With Metastatic Melanoma? 7 Reasons to Get a Second Opinion

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You’ve been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. You may feel a sense of urgency to start treatment immediately and forego a second opinion. But it’s OK to take a moment and breathe, and understand: there’s usually time between your diagnosis and the start of treatment to see another doctor and confirm all you’ve learned from your primary health professional. Talking to more than one doctor can put your mind at ease that you’re getting the right treatment, as well as help you sort out your options.

Keep reading to find out why people seek out a second opinion for metastatic melanoma, how you can start the process, and what you can do to prepare for your second opinion doctor visit.


To Confirm Your Diagnosis

If your doctor is unsure about your diagnosis or uncertain about the stage of your cancer, or if you’re uncertain that the diagnosis is correct, a second opinion is vital. It can help sort out the uncertainty. A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and a second opinion can set your mind at ease and answer any what-if questions you may have.


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To Explore Your Treatment Options

Your doctor may have made recommendations for treatment based on his or her experience, but you might want to hear a different perspective. Knowing all your treatment options, and the pros and cons of each, can help you make the most informed decision about your care.

You also may want to talk to someone at a specialized cancer center to make sure you have access to the latest technology and research. Getting as much information as you can, even if you end up with your original doctor for treatment, is always helpful for understanding the possibilities of treatment and care, according to Erika Schwartz, M.D., a physician in New York City.

“Write down questions in advance, and talk about your fears around different treatment choices [with your doctors],” Dr. Schwartz says. “The more info you have, the better informed you can be when making your decision.”


Desmoplastic melanoma under microscope

If Your Case is Not Typical

If you have a rare or unusual cancer, such as desmoplastic melanoma or acral lentiginous melanoma, you may want to talk to a doctor more familiar with this type of cancer, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Often, Dr. Schwartz notes, you may be referred by your doctor for a second opinion in these cases, to make sure you’re receiving the best level of care.


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If Your Insurance Company Requires It

Some health insurance companies require a second opinion before paying for certain treatments, such as major surgery, according to Cigna Insurance Company. Check with your insurance company to see if a second (concurring) opinion is needed.


If You Are Uncomfortable With Your Doctor

Sometimes you just don’t like your doctor. That isn’t to say they aren’t a good doctor or capable of treating you, but you may feel uncomfortable for any number of reasons. One example? You may feel your doctor is intent on doing what they think is best and won’t listen to your concerns. If so, seek out a second opinion.

“A doctor-patient relationship requires a high degree of communication and honesty,” says Larry Altshuler, M.D., an internist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Sometimes, you just don’t click for some reason, and that’s OK,” he says. “The sooner you admit that’s the case, the sooner you can find the right doctor for you.”


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If You Want to Explore Clinical Trials

Clinical trials for metastatic melanoma offer a way to try new medications and treatments that are not yet available to the general public. You may want to talk to a doctor at a facility that offers, or is involved in, clinical trials for metastatic melanoma.


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If You Want to Talk to Someone who Specializes in Your Cancer Type

Your first visit may have been with a general oncologist. You may see a doctor who specializes in one type of treatment, but says they can work with any treatment. You might want to talk to someone who specializes in a different type of treatment.

One of the top reasons to get a second opinion is that your doctor is not a specialist in your type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.


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How to Seek a Second Opinion

Talk to your doctor first (no, they shouldn’t be angry or upset with you) and ask for recommendations for a second opinion. As Dr. Schwartz mentioned, doctors will sometimes suggest a second opinion themselves, particularly if you should see someone who specializes in your type of cancer. Then call your insurance company and ask if you need to see someone in your network and ask for a list of specialists in your area (or beyond, if you’re able and willing to travel).

Next, contact a local cancer center that specializes in your type of cancer for a doctor. Or call a medical society or advocacy group for melanoma and ask what doctors in your area they recommend.


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Documents to Bring with You to Your Second Opinion Visit

When you go to the appointment for your second opinion, bring along your medical records for the doctor to review your situation, according to the American Cancer Society. Some documents to bring include:

  • List of all drugs and medications
  • Copies of pathology reports
  • Copy of operative reports
  • Hospital discharge papers and summary of treatment
  • Summary of doctor’s current treatment plan


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How to Gather Those Documents

Talk to your doctor and request that your records are sent to the other doctor prior to your appointment. You may need to contact the medical records department of the hospital for any discharge papers, and your pharmacy may be able to print out a list of your current medications for you.


A Second Opinion Matters

Hearing from another doctor can help alleviate your fears, confirm a treatment type is your most viable option, and/or convince you that your original doctor is the best person to care for your case. Seek out a second opinion today to help receive the best treatment possible in your metastatic melanoma journey.