doctor and stethoscope

Getting Second Opinions From Doctors

If you receive a scary diagnosis from your doctor that you have a serious health condition like cancer or multiple sclerosis — it’s very difficult to keep a level head. As you process the diagnosis and begin to think about what it will mean for your life, you’re probably thinking about the research you’ll need to do to understand everything about the condition, options for treatment and how you’ll move forward to fight the illness, and how to live life as normally as possible.

A diagnosis of a serious condition can be overwhelming — that’s why we recommend seeking a second opinion to provide you with certainty, well-rounded information and the peace and presence of mind to move forward with your treatment plan. Here’s what you need to know about medical second opinions.

Why Get a Second Opinion From a Doctor?

A serious medical diagnosis can be difficult to process and daunting to face — that’s why asking for a second opinion can give a fuller understanding of your condition and determine the best available treatment. Here’s how seeking a second opinion can help:

  • Eliminates “what-ifs” by giving you a full range of facts to compare
  • Gives you reinforcement and confidence that you’ve been accurately diagnosed because doctors’ opinions can differ
  • Helps you understand the full range of treatment options and alternative options available since doctors may recommend different treatments
  • May help further understand the genetic causes behind your condition

Will My Doctor Be Insulted By Me Seeking a Second Opinion?

Patients seeking a second opinion often worry about whether it’s in bad taste or their doctors will be upset that they’ve chosen to search elsewhere for reinforcement on the specifics of their condition. Don’t worry — your doctor won’t take offense to you making this move.

Just start an open conversation with your doctor explaining why you might like to seek a second opinion and asking if there’s anyone they can recommend. In fact, a second opinion is helpful for you to come to terms with your condition. Since this makes you well-informed, it gives you the time you need to mentally prepare for pursuing treatment options.

Tips on Getting Second Opinions for Patients

When you’re getting ready for your second opinion consultation, make sure to prepare in the following ways:

  • Write down questions and facts at the first appointment, and bring them to the second appointment to compare. Write down all the information from the second appointment to review on your own later.
  • Check your insurance policy to see whether another consultation is covered.
  • Bring any relevant x-rays, diagnoses, and paperwork — including potential treatment plans — to review with the second doctor.
  • Bring a loved one along for support. They may also serve as a second set of ears, whereby both of you can discuss the appointment afterward.

Schedule a Follow-Up With Gettysburg Cancer Center

When you’re satisfied with your second opinion from a doctor and ready to tackle treatment, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to welcome you with open arms. Our compassionate, expert care will provide you with the professional treatment and homelike environment you need to feel comfortable and confident. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Immunotherapy Drug Is Providing Exciting Results in the Treatment of Lung Cancers

inside view of lungs

Image: Sebastian Kaulitzki /

Alex was in his early 40s when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. A non-smoking, healthy man, who exercises regularly and eats relatively well is not who most people think of when they think of lung cancer.  However, people exactly like Alex are the new faces of lung cancer diagnoses. Alex is also one of a select few who qualified for a new targeted therapy drug recently approved by the FDA.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million deaths a year. In the United States, it is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in 2018, but recent studies are producing credible progress in finding new drugs that, when combined with more traditional chemotherapy, are greatly improving the survival rates among lung cancer patients. The findings are dramatically changing the way physicians are treating lung cancers. “What it suggests is that chemotherapy alone is no longer a standard of care,” said Dr. Leena Gandhi, a leader of the study and director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University Langone Health.

So far, four drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, which unleash the patient’s own immune system to kill malignant cells, have been approved by the FDA. “I’ve been treating lung cancer for 25 years now, and I’ve never seen such a big paradigm shift as we’re seeing with immunotherapy,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, Chief of Medical Oncology at the Yale Cancer Center.

In the trial, patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received the drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) plus chemotherapy had improved overall survival and progression-free survival compared with just chemotherapy alone.  The results from the KEYNOTE-189 clinical trial were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Chicago on April 16 and published concurrently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the main factors in the high rate of death due to lung cancer is that the disease is most often undetected until it has spread to other organs of the body. Lung cancer is the second most prevalent form of cancer in men and women and the top cancer killer among both sexes. In addition to the encouraging results from immunotherapy drugs, a newly discovered protein is showing promising results in detecting lung cancer earlier, providing new advanced treatment options to patients at the earliest stages of the disease. “The use of CKAP4 as a biomarker could change current practices regarding the treatment of lung cancer patients, and the diagnostic accuracies may be markedly improved by the combination of CKAP4 and conventional markers,” says Yuichi Sato, Division of Molecular Diagnostics, Kitasato University.

While the news of earlier discovery and new treatment options is very good, reducing risk factors for the disease remains the best approach to avoiding cancer. Exposure to tobacco smoke is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. Smoking marijuana and using electronic cigarettes may also increase the risk of lung cancer, but the actual risk is unknown. People who work with asbestos in a job such as shipbuilding, asbestos mining, insulation, or automotive brake repair and who smoke have a higher risk of developing cancer of the lungs. Exposure to radon has been associated with an increased risk of some types of cancer, including lung cancer. Having your home tested for the presence of Radon is a good and economical method for reducing the risk. Some people also have a genetic predisposition for lung cancer. People with parents, brothers, or sisters with lung cancer could have a higher risk of developing the cancer themselves.

Understanding cancer and how to treat it is constantly evolving toward the day when a cure is discovered. The cure is not here yet, but treatment options have greatly improved in recent decades. The treatments and methods used in clinical trials are promising in every environment in which they are tested. For more information on advancements in cancer detection and treatment, visit

What is Your Cancer Stage and Why is it Important to Know?


doctor explaining stage of cancer to a patient

Image: Chinnapong /

One of the many new terms that patients hear when receiving a cancer diagnosis is “stage”. Along with a long list of other medical terminology used by caregivers to describe cancer, the stage of cancer is used to describe the level at which the cancer has progressed. The stage of cancer will determine where the disease is located, if or where it has spread, what other parts of the body it may have affected, and the patient’s estimated survivable rate. The stage is the most credible indication of the cancer’s progression at a given period of time and is determined by patient procedures and tests such as physical examinations, imaging scans, biopsies, blood tests, surgery or other genetic testing. Even though this is extremely important information, nearly half of the patients diagnosed with cancer in the past two years are unaware of their disease’s stage.

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) recently released the latest edition of its cancer staging manual with new and updated staging for many types of cancer. Most cancer treatment centers started using the updated manual on January 1, 2018.

The specific stage of cancer can be determined by tests conducted prior to diagnosis or after a surgery has been performed. It can provide answers to questions concerning the size of the primary tumor, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body and if the cancer is more or less likely to spread. The cancer’s stage will help determine the specific course of treatments, establish the likelihood of recovery, the estimated time to recovery and permit the patient to develop a roadmap for the challenges that lie ahead.

Most types of cancer have four stages:

  • Stage 0 is the stage that best describes cancer that is still located in the place it started and has not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumor with surgery.
  • Stage I cancer is usually a small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. It also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body and is often referred to as early-stage cancer.
  • Stage II and Stage III refers to larger tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue and those that may have spread to the lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV indicates that a cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body and is sometimes called advanced or metastatic cancer.

Understanding your cancer stage will provide critical insight on your future treatment options, the time and direction of recovery and ultimately your likelihood for survival. It is important to be informed about all aspects of your disease so that you can be an active and well-informed participant in your own care.