“When Doctors Disagree” sounds like the title of a cheesy, faux-dramatic reality show. Unfortunately, disagreements between one’s plastic surgeon and breast surgeon can be yet another challenge in an already exhausting line of obstacles.
When you have multiple specialists and physicians, it’s not wholly unusual to receive advice and information that varies slightly. However, that doesn’t mean the situation is any less confusing for you. Getting flustered will make it more difficult to handle the issue in a logical way. Do your best to stay calm throughout the disagreement.
Other than staying calm, what can you do?
Fortunately, you can do quite a lot to help resolve the issue.
Give Them All Your Information
If you have multiple physicians, it’s extremely important that they all have your entire medical history. Physicians and surgeons rely on patient health records to make good recommendations about health care. If one of your physician’s records are a bit lacking, they are more likely to give you advice that goes against that of a physician who has more complete information.
When it comes to making recommendations about breast reconstruction, mastectomies, and other breast cancer treatments, your physicians will need to know about previous surgeries. They should also know about your blood tests, x-rays, biopsies, and any medication. Finally, they will need accurate information about your age, weight, and other health conditions that you may have. If one of your physicians doesn’t have all your information, you can request copies of your records. Your regular physician can even send them electronically.
You may think that because they are all part of your breast cancer medical team, they are already sharing information. That is not always the case, especially if your medical team is spread across different hospitals. Physicians must have written permission to release your medical history to another doctor. Once you give that permission, you can often request that all future information about your breast cancer treatment is shared to ensure everyone stays up-to-date.
All of your physicians have all your information, but they still disagree. Now what?
Listen to Their Reasons
The first step in trying to resolve a disagreement is to figure out why each physician gave you the information they did. Your physicians are not going to make a decision based on random facts and feelings; they will have a reason behind their choices. By listening to and understanding these reasons, you are in a better position to find an agreeable solution.
Although these kinds of disagreements can be challenging, they may also benefit you. Since your physicians clearly have different perspectives, talking to them about the reasons behind their recommendations gives you information from differing views. You can hear about the benefits and risks of certain treatments and procedures as they relate to different aspects of your health. This additional information can be extremely helpful as you make your own decisions throughout your breast cancer treatment and breast reconstruction process.
Research More Information
In addition to asking your physicians for information, you can also look it up yourself. If your physicians recommended different breast reconstruction procedures, for example, researching the different procedures on your own will provide you with unbiased information about risks, benefits, healing, and more. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If you understand each procedure from an unbiased view, you are in a better position to make your own decision about your care.
Still, while you are researching, remember that information online or in books is missing a major component: your personal health history. One procedure may look great on paper, but when factoring in your medical history, it may actually be riskier than normal, or even impossible. Discuss any information you find with your physicians to ensure you understand the role your individual health plays.
Have Your Breast Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon Talk to Each Other
As you try to find a solution for your physicians’ disagreement, you can’t serve as the messenger the entire time. Relaying a series of “he said, she said” information may actually muddle things up more. Instead, suggest that they meet to discuss the disagreement themselves. This gives both of them the opportunity to share their reasons and opinions with another medical professional. Sharing their ideas with each other may help them resolve the issue on their own.
Get a Third Opinion
Most people know about getting a second opinion when they don’t agree with a diagnosis. But, you can also get a third opinion if two of your physicians disagree. Going to another physician for a third opinion does not mean you are changing physicians. You are simply asking for more information. Go to a physician you are already familiar with, such as your primary care physician or another physician in your medical team. You can also find another breast or plastic surgeon.
You do run the risk of the third physician giving you an entirely new option. This may make things even more confusing. On the other hand, it could be a more ideal solution that your other two physicians did not consider. Similar to doing research on your own, getting another perspective doesn’t really hurt anything. A third physician may provide you with a third option. It still leaves you with the task of deciding which choice is best for you. Any new information about the other two options could make your decision a bit easier.
You’ve done everything you can to resolve the issue, but your physicians still disagree. What else is there for you to do?
You Make the Decision
At the end of the day, you are the one with the loudest voice when it comes to your own care. Your physicians may have the background and training, but you know what is best for you. You’ve done the research, learned the information, and understand the risks and benefits of any treatment or procedure that has been suggested. You are well-equipped to make the choice yourself.
Place value on your own perspective and opinion.
You’ve been dealing with a lot already and have likely already made more decisions about your care than you ever really want to again. But if your physicians are still disagreeing after everything you’ve tried, making a well-informed decision yourself may be the only solution. When you are trying to decide, make sure you consider everything, from the cost of the treatment or procedure to how much time you must take off from work.
Don’t let any of your physicians push or bully you. Avoid agreeing to a procedure or treatment that you know is not right for your situation. Make sure you share your concerns and thoughts with your physicians. Even though they have their own opinions, they are there to provide you with care. They remain a valuable resource for all your health-related choices.