When Weighing Treatment Options for Cancer, It’s Important to Get More Than One Opinion

November 13, 2020
Ryan McDonald

“The concept that people have sometimes is that they put doctors on a pedestal, which is fine,” Bud Green said. And they somehow think that all doctors are kind of the same, and they're all as good. And I think that they need to see that different specialties look at things from a different perspective.

Bud Green and his wife, Gloria, advise others facing skin cancer diagnoses about the importance of educating themselves and being prepared to ask their health care teams the necessary questions to ensure they’re receiving the right treatment.

Over the last four years, Bud has had several cases of basal cell carcinoma and advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma — the two most common forms of skin cancer.

Each time, his dermatologist performed a Mohs procedure to remove any traces of the cancers. However, during his most recent incidence of skin cancer, Bud and Gloria learned that surgery would no longer be a viable option as the procedure would have needed to be too extensive to remove all traces of the disease.

“It was seven weeks (of radiation) total and I'm still in radiation on my right cheek, and it was three weeks on the smaller (cyst),” Bud said in an interview with CURE®.

About a week into his radiation treatment, his oncologists realized that his disease was outrunning the radiation. After multiple consultations, Bud’s team decided to continue radiation and started him on the PD-1 inhibitor Libtayo (cemiplimab-rwlc).

Throughout his cancer experiences, Bud said he has learned firsthand that patients cannot sit on the sidelines waiting for their turn, but rather, they should be aggressive because their disease could be moving quickly. He said he’s learned it’s important for people to advocate for their own treatment.

“It's important for them to realize that (their disease may) not (be) typical, (and) that they need to consult with other medical specialists,” he said. “A lot of people go to a dermatologist, and (think) they did this pretty well (and) stick with what the dermatologist is saying. I think in this case, they need to go to an oncologist, maybe go to an ENT, go to the different specialists and even a radiation oncologist.”

The more patients advocate for themselves, according to Bud and Gloria, the better informed they are to choose the right option for their treatment.

“I think that people don't know enough about immunotherapy,” Gloria Green said in an interview with CURE®.“And we've learned a lot about it. And there's still so much we don't know about it. So, I think education for the general public would be really helpful.”

Importance of Second Opinions

Gloria cited her husband’s case as a prime example of how there’s a lack of information available to the average person with limited medical knowledge.

“Mohs was offered to Bud again, and in his case, it wouldn’t have been the right direction to go, at least according to the rest of the doctors we were talking to,” she said.

Bud acknowledged that many patients may find it difficult to switch doctors, but he stressed why it’s important to get more than one opinion.

“The concept that people have sometimes is that they put doctors on a pedestal, which is fine,” he said. And they somehow think that all doctors are kind of the same, and they're all as good. And I think that they need to see that different specialties look at things from a different perspective. And it’s that different perspective that you want to get from them.”

Another difference between relying on one opinion versus other specialist opinions is a possible outcome, Gloria said.

“If you don't go get another opinion, you could die,” she said. “If you get another opinion, you still could die, but at least you know your options.”

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