February 12

Letter to the editor: Doctors should encourage getting a second opinion

Four-plus years ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I went to an oncologist here in the Portland area who said I was at stage 4 and the only thing left to do was palliative care.

He said if I were his father, he would not put me through radiation, chemotherapy, etc. He felt that was a waste of time. I walked out on him before he finished.

Fortunately, I had a friend who got me down to Mass General, where I got into a clinical trial. Four-plus years later, I am still alive. My cancer had been staged wrong in Portland.

The point is that too often, folks don’t ask for a second opinion. Over the last several years I have asked many doctors if they are bothered by their patients asking if is OK to do so. Every doctor said that was no problem at all.

However, many patients I have spoken to are uncomfortable about doing that for fear of offending their doctor. So my advice to patients is: Get that second opinion.

To doctors, I would recommend something like the following to be said to their patients: “I know many patients are reluctant to ask for a second opinion for fear of offending their own doctor. I want you to know that does not offend me at all.”

I got that second opinion and am still alive because I did.

Sam Kelley

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