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Posted on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 8 a.m.

Video: University of Michigan doctor discusses second opinions on PBS

By Betsy de Parry

In the video below, which recently aired on the PBS show A Wider World, University of Michigan oncologist Dr. Harry Erba, discusses the importance of second opinions after a cancer diagnosis and what to do if opinions differ.

Does every diagnosis warrant a second opinion? Those of us who live in the Ann Arbor area have access to some of the top specialists in their fields and it would be hard to find better opinions. But that's not the case everywhere.

It's only logical that specialists who see particular types of cancers day in and day out have more experience than general oncologists who treat all kinds of cancer and who can't possibly have the time to keep up with the ever-changing knowledge of all cancers, much less all the new and emerging treatments for all of them.

To put it bluntly, doctors can only bring to the table what they have seen, done or read — and if they run out of ideas, so, too, do our options.

If you do get a second opinion, it doesn't mean that you can't go back to your first doctor. Of course you can. But you'll go back with a new perspective, more knowledge about your condition, potentially a new treatment option or reassurance and confidence in the plan you choose.

Doctors — even specialists — are accustomed to patients getting second opinions. Sometimes they actually welcome them. If any doctor scoffs at the idea of a second opinion, it should be a huge red flag that your health will take a back seat to his ego. And ego will not heal you.

You have every right to ask your doctor how many cases like yours he has treated in the last year. And you have every right to get a second opinion. It could save your life.

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Harry Erba, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. He specializes in acute/chronic leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and other malignant blood diseases.

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Betsy de Parry is the author of Adventures In Cancer Land and the producer of the Candid Cancer reports which air on the PBS show A Wider World in this area on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. on WTVS. Find her on Facebook, email her or follow Candid Cancer on Twitter.

Watch previous Candid Cancer shows.