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Why Second Opinions Matter for Multiple Myeloma
If you’re not familiar with multiple myeloma, you’re not alone. It’s a relatively rare cancer, and because of this, it’s crucial to get a second opinion before starting treatment.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells, or blood cells that live in bone marrow and play a key role in immune function. The disease develops when plasma cells turn cancerous and grow out of control, leaving less room in bone marrow for other types of blood cells to function (as well as leading to problems with bone and kidney health).
Diagnosing it can be challenging. Blood cancers like multiple myeloma can have different features and subtypes, and knowing the particular details of your disease can help your doctor make the most effective treatment recommendations.
“There are features that tell oncologists whether your condition is more aggressive,” said Michael Styler, MD, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “We can use very sensitive genetic analyses to give us a good idea of how resistant a particular cancer is to treatment.”
That’s where a second opinion comes in. If you are diagnosed with or suspected of having multiple myeloma, it’s important for your test results to be reviewed by a hematopathologist—a physician who specializes in diagnosing blood cancers. These clinicians diagnose rare blood cancers every day, so they have the knowledge and experience to make sure the details of your diagnosis are exactly right.
These specialists are typically found at major cancer centers, along with oncologists who specialize in treating all types of blood cancers (including multiple myeloma).
“Fox Chase has expert hematopathologists,” Styler said. “Patients who come here also have access to a multidisciplinary team of doctors and other experts who will work together to form an individualized treatment plan that may include standard-of-care therapies or clinical trials.”
How to Get a Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion starts with talking to your current physician. Your doctor should be comfortable with your request and can give you a sense of how much time you can comfortably take to explore your options.
When meeting with the second doctor, you’ll want to have the exact details of your first diagnosis and proposed treatment. Be sure to bring along copies of any test results or pathology reports, along with a list of any medications you’re currently taking.
Processing a diagnosis of an uncommon cancer like multiple myeloma can feel intense, and making treatment decisions isn’t always easy. Having a specialist review your case can give you a deeper understanding of your cancer, reassure you that you’re moving in the right direction, and—most importantly—give you the best chance for a positive outcome.