Monday, September 8, 2008

You gotta fight

Sick Guy, Sr. passed on this Steve Lopez column about the importance of second opinions. 

Lopez's sister's oncologist recommended whole-brain radiation after ovarian cancer metastasized, a treatment that has immediate and often severe side-effects. But after the writer described the case to first one, then several, experts no one thought whole-brain radiation was indicated. Lopez's sister got a workup and formal second opinion at a top facility, which recommended more targeted "gamma knife" radiation. Whole-brain radiation was barely considered. Whether out of misplaced personal pride, the limitations of your health plan, or the limitations of in-network facilities (which in this case did not include a gamma knife facility), docs don't always make the right call.

Of course, this story suffers from the Teddy Kennedy problem -- how am I going to get several experts on the phone if I'm not a senator or Pulitzer Prize-winner? You probably aren't. But supportive communities like the Sarcoma Alliance bulletin board offer access to quite a bit of knowledge, and most insurance companies and doctors will support at least one formal second opinion.

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