Optimizing Breast Cancer Survival: The Importance of Second Opinions & Multidisciplinary Tumor Boards

December 20, 2018

Several recent studies have come to an alarming conclusion, around 40%* of patients that seek a second opinion on their mammograms and other breast-related imaging have a change in the diagnosis that affects treatment.

This includes missed cancers and overdiagnosis, which means that it is beneficial to seek a second opinion from an expert radiologist that specializes in breast imaging even when the study comes back “negative” or “benign findings.”

Holistic Approach And Accurate Diagnosis

An abnormal mammogram or other breast imaging study creates high levels of anxiety and many patients find themselves rushing to find answers, so they may start treatment as quickly as possible. Many patients are sent first sent to either a medical oncologist, surgeon or radiation oncologist, and treatment is often initiated prior to seeing the other specialists.

This can create long delays, which coupled with anxiety, sleepless nights and time away from work and family can lead to rushing through the process without completing it. The process is just too in most cases. In this common scenario, there is often little coordination between the providers so that the treatment plan isn’t ideal.

Multidisciplinary Tumor Board

Ideally, patients would have an accurate diagnosis of the initial screening study and workup and then have their case presented in a multidisciplinary tumor board at the hospital. A multidisciplinary tumor board for breast cancer is comprised of several medical oncologists, breast surgeons, radiation oncologists, breast pathologists, geneticists, and breast radiologists and is so superior to the alternative that it is becoming the standard of care at many cancer centers.

The patient’s physician presents the patient including their medical history as well as any opinions they regarding surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, etc. Then the breast radiologist presents all of the imaging and the pathologist discusses the intricacies of the pathology.

Appropriate Information Helps Meet Patient Needs To The Core

Armed with this information, the gathered physicians discuss the best approach to treatment using experience and available research to come to a treatment plan that everyone agrees to and which is tailor-made for the particular patient.

This not only provides the best treatment plan but is also much faster and saves the patient a lot of time and money in the process. Unfortunately, not every patient is presented at a tumor board leaving them to navigate the system alone.

Why Getting A Second Opinion Is A Critical Requirement?

At WelbyMD, we recommend receiving a second opinion on all radiology studies even if they are read as “normal” given the high error rate. A second opinion for breast disease means asking a radiologist specializing in breast cancer, to review your medical imaging and give you an opinion about your diagnosis and answer your questions.

The second opinion may confirm the original diagnosis and recommended next steps, although it may also diagnose cancers that were missed and provide more information regarding the specific type of cancer and available cutting edge treatments that haven’t been considered.

If you have a diagnosis that is confirmed by a radiologist specializing in breast cancer, we recommend asking to have your case presented in a tumor board at your hospital or using our virtual multidisciplinary tumor board comprised of the same expert, subspecialist physicians that discuss the patient and provide the best treatment plan in a short amount of time.

The advantage of using our service is that the patient is directly involved in the process and receives the treatment plan and can have any questions or concerns addressed. Armed with this treatment plan, that can be updated as new information comes in, the patient is confident that they are receiving optimal treatment and can start treatment much faster.