Justin Chura, MD, and Anya Khomenko, survivor of ovarian cancer, reinforce the value in patient education and reflect on the importance of seeking a second opinion from an expert in ovarian cancer prior to beginning therapy.
PUBLISHED December 21, 2017
Maurie Markman, MD: What has been your approach to learning about the illness? Obviously, you’ve spoken to your doctor and you speak to your doctor regularly. Are there other strategies you’ve used?
Anya Khomenko: Yes, of course. My husband and I scour the internet. We’re constantly on a lookout for new methodologies and modalities. We went to a website called clinicaltrials.gov. We compiled the list of all of the trials. We brought it to Dr. Chura, who kindly prioritized, and then suggested some of the trials.
Justin Chura, MD: She is one of my few patients that gives me a homework assignment from time to time. I have to say, “I’ll take this stack and then I’m going to call you next week after I’ve reviewed it.”
Anya Khomenko: And that’s when we went to Fox Chase Cancer Center for one of those trials. It was not a second opinion, but we spoke to the doctor, as well, who contacted Dr. Chura afterwards. So, it’s teamwork.
Maurie Markman, MD: You brought up that question of a second opinion. This is obviously not unique to ovarian cancer, and not unique to gynecologic cancers. It’s a very important topic in the area of cancer management. So, second opinion. What does it mean to you? How important is it, and how important do you think it should be, in general, for patients and their families?
Anya Khomenko: There are times when you might want to seek a second opinion, and it’s just a tool in the whole array of your treatment. I would encourage for people, even those who trust their doctor as I do, if they feel there could be some other trial, or some other methodology, to seek a second opinion. Do not hide it. There’s nothing wrong with it.
Maurie Markman, MD: I think about one of the comments that I’ve heard in my own practice, where a patient said they’re concerned that the doctor might be offended, or I might be offended. And I said, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Anya Khomenko: I totally agree.
Maurie Markman, MD: The best way to feel confidence in what’s being done now, if that’s in fact what the end result is, is to have someone else say, “It’s a good approach,” as opposed to being afraid of getting that answer.
Anya Khomenko: I view my doctors as a team member. We all pursue one goal: To make us healthy. And doctors, by their profession, are people who are most interested, aside from the patients. So yes, it’s in their nature to improve the lives of their patients. You know? Encourage every woman to discuss it with their doctors. Trust your doctor. Discuss it with them. And, if you feel like it, do seek a second opinion.
Justin Chura, MD: Absolutely. I always think that timing of a second opinion is critical as well. Get the second opinion before the treatment plan has started, because once that plan has been initiated, it often cannot be changed. The key is in getting the second opinion at a time when a decision is being made, not after a person’s already on a regimen. At that point, there won’t be much to say. So, the timing of the timing of the opinion is important. You’re absolutely right, Maurie. If a woman’s doctor is offended by that, that sort of sums…
Maurie Markman, MD: It’s a red flag.
Justin Chura, MD: Yes, exactly. It’s almost a litmus test of the physician. If someone says, “I’m getting a second opinion,” I will often say, “Great, where would you like to go? I can recommend some colleagues to you.” And Anya’s second opinion was great because…
Anya Khomenko: Which is what you did.
Justin Chura, MD: We spoke afterwards. We talked about some different strategies. Anya ultimately wasn’t eligible for that trial, so we’ve been in contact since, from time-to-time.