Practical advice for getting second opinions

A woman recently diagnosed with cancer stopped by our office to say that she’s heard that it’s important to obtain second opinions from major cancer centers and to assemble a team of experts to provide her treatment. She asked, “How the hell do I do that?” Cancer guidebooks are full of grandiose suggestions like “assemble



Cancer-Related Fatigue

When people think about the side effects of cancer treatment, they usually think about hair loss (which is common with some types of chemotherapy), and nausea (which is not nearly as common as it used to be). But in my experience, fatigue is the side effect that’s most universal and least appreciated. Fatigue is different



Decision-making with cancer

Everyone diagnosed with cancer has decisions to make. What type of treatment? Where to have treatment? Should the cancer even be treated? The question isn’t what’s best. Rather, the question is what’s best for you. After working with people making these decisions for the past several years, I’ve found that some general guidelines can be helpful:



Clinical trials and cancer

People diagnosed with cancer often wonder if they should participate in a clinical trial. When someone asks for my opinion, I begin by saying that clinical trials are essential for the advancement of medicine. For example, one clinical trial found that women with early-stage breast cancer did just as well after a lumpectomy (followed by



Parking lot moments after a cancer diagnosis

You’re initially stunned when you hear the words, “You have cancer.” Your brain freezes and things are a blur for at least a few minutes. A friend recently asked me what went through my mind once the initial numbness began to fade. For me, this was when I had checked out of the doctor’s office



Newly diagnosed with cancer

The first few days following a cancer diagnosis are like riding on top of a speeding train. You’re hanging on for dear life and can’t quite see what’s ahead. Although every situation is somewhat different, this is what I generally suggest: Focus on one step at a time. If you are having a biopsy next



Don’t Go Alone

It’s important to have someone with you at doctor’s appointments when you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis. I’ve written in the past that people often experience a brain freeze when they are first diagnosed. They hear little after the doctor says, “I’m sorry, you have cancer.” For some people, though, the issue is more of



Cancer and Positive Thinking

Whenever someone is diagnosed with cancer, people feel compelled to say, “You gotta stay positive!” (This is usually said with an enthusiastic pump of the arm). I’m a pretty positive guy and I’m all in favor of positive thinking, but I cringe whenever I hear those words. First of all, telling someone to be positive



Second Opinions

People diagnosed with cancer sometimes ask me if their doctor will take offense if they get a second opinion. The answer is no. Nearly all doctors today are receptive to patients getting second opinions. (And if you have one of those rare doctors who does take offense, you should seriously consider getting a new doctor.)



Too Little and Too Much Treatment

Although I firmly believe that everyone should be in control of their own treatment decisions, I have observed that some people seem to seek too little treatment when they are first diagnosed and other people seek too much treatment at the end of their lives. Some people prefer to go the alternative route when they



Questions Every Cancer Patient Should Ask

Question #1: Can you repeat that? Getting diagnosed with cancer is like walking through a hurricane. Winds are swirling all around and you’re just trying to stay on your feet. It’s difficult to remain clear-headed and absorb all that’s being told to you. No one expects you to hear and understand everything. I encourage patients



Good Cancers and Bad Cancers

I routinely talk with people who have just been diagnosed with cancer. They’re struggling with treatment decisions and the realization that life is suddenly different. I also talk with people with advanced cancer who are coming to terms with a poor prognosis and the realization that, in all likelihood, they will die prematurely because of



It’s OK to ask Your Doctor

People often leave their doctor’s offices irritated with themselves for not asking what they wanted to ask. Sometimes they simply forget to ask. (I encourage people to bring a list).  On other occasions, though, people aren’t sure if it’s OK to ask certain questions. Sometimes the questions that people hesitate to ask are the ones



Newly Diagnosed with Cancer

The first few days following a cancer diagnosis are like riding on top of a speeding train. You’re hanging on for dear life and can’t quite see what’s ahead. Although every situation is somewhat different, this is what I generally suggest: Focus on one step at a time. If you are having a biopsy next