Q: I had a recent mammogram, and they told me there was a spot on the left side, then later they told me everything was OK. Do you think it is worth my getting a second opinion?
A: That is a good question, and my bottom line answer is yes. Largely, this is a peace-of-mind issue. If you are at a full-service regional breast center that has fellowship-trained, sub-specialty doctors in breast imaging or clinical breast radiology, chances are a second opinion may not differ. But even if it does not, you get peace of mind. I also tell patients that if another doctor gives you an opinion that is different from mine, I would be happy to discuss the difference with him or her. Hopefully, your first doctor feels the same way.
If your mammogram was done at a facility that does not really specialize in breast radiology but does general radiology with mammography, then there is evidence that a second opinion may be more valuable. A paper recently published in a major peer-reviewed journal reinforced my answer. You can review the full article at jacr.org.
This and other research done over the years indicates that a patient does get value by going to a center that specializes in mammography/breast imaging for her yearly checkups over a center that does not. Regardless, if you have concerns about a recommendation that was given to you by a doctor in any field of medicine, get a second opinion, if for no other reason than to gain that peace of mind.
Michael J. Ulissey, M.D., is a partner at the Breast Diagnostic Centers of Auburn and Federal Way. In addition to taking care of patients locally, he continues to participate in research as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.