Why Should I See a Prostate Cancer Specialist?

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Topics include: Treatments and Understanding

Should patients see a specialist for prostate cancer? How will treatment decision making be affected with a new addition to your health care team? Prostate cancer experts Dr. Tomasz Beer from OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and Dr. Celestia Higano from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance discuss when is a critical time to see a specialist, why a second opinion is important and how patients can benefit. Tune in to find out.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power in partnership with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We thank Astellas and Sanofi for their support.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Jeff Folloder:              

One of the things that I heard earlier, when you were talking with another prostate cancer patient—the reluctance, maybe, to get a second opinion, or see a specialist, or a different doctor.

It’s easy for some of us to say, “Just go see a specialist,” but—a lot of people—doctors, I’m going to be honest here: A lot of people still have trouble with what they think is firing their doctor. If they’re not getting the care that they should be getting, it’s difficult for them to dismiss a relationship that they’ve had. So, I’m going to start with you, Dr. Beer. When is it appropriate to challenge what’s going on? Is it okay just to say, “I’ve got to go see a specialist”?

Dr. Beer:                    

Well, I would start with the comment that really, a second opinion is a completely normal thing to do, and a man with prostate cancer should be thinking of their health and well-being first and foremost, and not the feelings of their doctor. That’s not the main consideration.

But also, I would go beyond that and say that if one of my patients says, “I’d like a second opinion,” my response to that is, “How can I help you get that? Who would you like to see?” If your doctor doesn’t respond in that way, that’s not something we would encourage amongst healthcare professionals. So I think second opinions are actually appropriate.

Now, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh opinions—you can get yourself really mixed up with a ton of advice, and in the end, what you find in prostate cancer is that there are many decision points where there’s not just a black-and-white “You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.” So, if you get five or six opinions, you might get five or six recommendations, and you’re right back where you started.

So, I think the key thing is to find one or two people you trust that are knowledgeable, and you’re comfortable with their knowledge and approach, and feel free to get a second opinion. I wouldn’t worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings.

As to when, I think right after an initial diagnosis is obviously a critical time. And then, at major junctures where there’s a major decision point about a different therapy or different approach—that would also be a good moment to consider another opinion. 

Jeff Folloder:              

Anything to add?

Dr. Higano:                

Yes. I was going to say that there’s the field of medical oncology, which we’re in. Many practicing oncologists are treating all kinds of cancer, which –I marvel at because there are so many changes across the board in cancer. I don’t know how they keep up. We have the luxury of concentrating in one area and having a very intimate knowledge of that, and seeing patients with that cancer every day.

So, that’s a difference—so, sometimes, it’s going from a general oncologist to a subspecialist for that second opinion, and the same thing along the journey. Some people are in the situation they can see that subspecialist all the time, and others aren’t.

So, I think—I completely agree with what Tom said about if you have a bad reaction from your doctor about getting a second opinion at any of these junctures, maybe that’s not the right situation for you because we all want the best for our patients. We want our patients to feel comfortable with whatever they’re going to do next, and so, if they go somewhere else and are either reassured or someone has a better idea, great. Let’s do it.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on March 23, 2018