After receiving a multiple myeloma diagnosis, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and concerns. For some, that means seeking out a second opinion.
A second opinion is a chance to consult with another expert. You may want to confirm that your treatment plan makes sense, or you may want to know whether other options or newer research could play a role in your care.
Even if you’re happy with your specialist and your care plan, it’s normal to want to explore other ideas. But you don’t have to get a second opinion. If you’ve found a specialist and treatment plan that feels like a good fit, you likely won’t feel a need to look any further.
But if you’re curious about getting a second opinion, here’s how it works.
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells called plasma cells which are found in bone marrow.
Healthy plasma cells create antibodies to help your body fight infection. With multiple myeloma, the body stops making healthy plasma cells. Instead, they become cancerous and multiply. This lowers your immune response, making it harder to fight off infection.
Meanwhile, the overgrowth of cancerous plasma cells starts to block the creation of other white and red blood cells. Low levels of red blood cells can lead to anemia. This can cause fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate.
Multiple myeloma can also lead to myeloma bone disease. An overproduction of cancerous cells in the bone marrow can damage the bone. This can lead to chronic bone pain and increase the risk of fractures.
With advances in treatment, people are living longer with multiple myeloma. Treatments may include:
- targeted therapy
- bone-modifying drugs
- bone marrow or stem cell transplant
Your exact treatment plan will be based on your individual needs. It may include a combination of drugs. Any active form of multiple myeloma requires treatment.
Those who are diagnosed with a type called smoldering myeloma and aren’t experiencing symptoms are monitored closely instead of being treated.
It’s very common for people with any recent diagnosis to look for a second opinion.
Getting a second opinion is an opportunity to learn more about the diagnosis or hear different ideas about your prognosis and treatment options. You may also seek out a second opinion from a specialist who has more experience treating this type of cancer.
A second opinion can be just that — a chance to find out what another expert recommends for you. Or if you feel like you don’t have a good relationship with your first doctor, it’s a chance to find a specialist you connect with more.
Sometimes, the second doctor you meet with will recommend the same treatment plan as the first. This may help you feel more confident about your initial doctor’s assessment and recommendations.
Keep in mind that the process of getting a second opinion can take extra time and energy. It may also delay treatment. Only you can decide whether it’s worth your time to seek out other options.
If possible, consider seeing a specialist at an academic medical center or large hospital or facility dedicated to cancer treatment. That way you can meet with an oncologist who specializes in treating multiple myeloma.
If you don’t live near a specialized facility, you may still be able to arrange for a consult. If it goes well, you can ask the specialist to work closely with your local doctor on your treatment plan.
If you decide to get a second opinion, ask for recommendations from people you know to help simplify the process.
Your primary care doctor has lots of connections. Talk with them about why you’re looking for a second opinion. They can refer you to another specialist. Many doctors are used to this request and are unlikely to be offended by it.
Other people living with multiple myeloma are another great source for suggestions. They can recommend medical professionals based on personal experience. They can also advise you on specialists you may want to avoid.
You can connect through online or in-person support groups and ask for help.
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of specialists you may want to meet for a second opinion, get in touch with their offices.
Ask about wait times for an appointment. Consider the location of the office. Some offices conduct virtual consults over the phone or through video calls. If you’re interested, you can ask about this option.
Find out what the new doctor needs you to bring to the consultation. They’ll want to review your medical history and may request test results and prior consult notes.
The doctor may want to have your full medical records sent over prior to your new appointment. Ask your initial doctor what needs to be done on your end to share those records.
You may also want to bring your own notes. Here’s what you can jot down before your appointment:
- your reasons for seeking a second opinion and what you want to get out of the appointment
- any questions you have
- any current treatments you take or therapies you’re undergoing
- any other treatments your current doctor has recommended
Many people find it helpful to bring a friend or family member to the appointment. They act as a second set of ears and take notes for you.
The second doctor may ask questions to get to know you and understand your needs. Prepare to answer these questions:
- Why are you looking for a second opinion?
- Do you have any concerns about your care so far?
- What do you think about the treatment plan recommended by your original doctor?
- Are there any treatments you have heard about and want to know more?
There should be plenty of time for you to ask questions, too. Here are some things you may want to ask:
- How long have you been working with people who have multiple myeloma?
- What did you notice when you looked at my lab or test results?
- What do you recommend for me and why?
- What do you think about my current treatment plan?
- Are there any new treatments available that might be a good fit for me?
Your next steps will depend on how the consult went. Take some time to reflect on the appointment. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Were the recommendations similar to the treatment plan discussed with your first specialist?
- What stood out to you about this doctor or their approach?
- Was there anything the doctor said or did that felt uncomfortable?
- Are there any new ideas you want to discuss with your original doctor?
- Was there anything the new doctor said that didn’t make sense to you?
Often multiple myeloma doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all treatment approach. Two oncologists may make different treatment recommendations and still both be correct.
It can be confusing if the second doctor has really different ideas from the first. It can be complicated trying to figure out what to do next. Consider asking whether the two doctors would meet to discuss your case. Or bring records from both consults to talk it over with your primary care doctor or a third consultation.
Ultimately, if you’re given differing recommendations, you will have to decide which to go with. Consider choosing the physician you trust the most, and the treatment plan that best fits your goals and lifestyle.
After a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, many people seek out a second opinion. It’s normal to be curious about other ideas or treatment approaches.
A trusted healthcare professional or others living with multiple myeloma can share recommendations on where to go for a second opinion.
Though two doctors may provide two different treatment recommendations and still be right. If that happens, weigh your options and choose the path that suits you best. It can feel good to know that you’ve explored your options before you settle on a treatment plan.