A breast cancer diagnosis can change a person’s life. And during such devastating news, the sheer amount of information regarding treatment and follow-up care can quickly become overwhelming. However, patients are not alone in this fight. Atlantic Health System’s Breast Cancer Second Opinion Program at Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, Overlook Medical Center, is helping provide peace of mind to recently diagnosed patients as well as those facing recurrence. The initiative gives patients the opportunity to have a designated team of physicians review their medical records and imaging studies, explain the diagnosis, and make recommendations.

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“As part of the program, patients meet with breast cancer specialists in either a group setting or one-on-one,” says Bonni Guerin, MD, director of breast cancer treatment and prevention for Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.

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“It gives the patient an opportunity to ask a group of professionals any new questions that have come to mind since learning about their diagnosis.” According to Dr. Guerin, second opinions often confirm a diagnosis and treatment plan, which helps the patient feel confident in her decision-making. Sometimes, a second opinion offers a different approach. Either way, a second opinion can dramatically improve care when a patient takes the time to cover all bases in the decision process.

“Many patients desire a second opinion, but don’t know how to go about orchestrating one,” says Dr. Guerin. “At this point in the diagnosis, they’ve already been through the usual screenings and tests. We take things a step further and give her access to an entire team of pathologists, radiologists, surgeons and other providers. She gets additional perspective about her treatment, perhaps more treatment options like clinical research trials, and – ultimately – confidence in her doctor’s recommendations and decisions.”

What to Expect

All it takes is a single phone call to set up the initial appointment. The patient’s paperwork and records are sent in advance, and a group of physicians evaluate everything before the visit. Once the patient arrives, she gets the chance to meet the doctors and receive individualized attention. At the end of the appointment, the patient gets a written copy of the panel’s recommendations.

“By making time for the patient to speak to several experts at once, we reduce the patient’s need for additional medical visits and give them all the information they need to make the best health care decisions.” While some patients may be wary of seeking a second opinion, Dr. Guerin reassures them that second opinions are a common occurrence. 

“A good physician will support a patient’s search for a second opinion,” she says. “We can help you with the process to make it easier. Our goal is to help women achieve the best care possible for their specific diagnosis.”

For more information about the Breast Cancer Second Opinion Program, call 908-522-6210 or visit atlantichealth.org/secondopinion.

Bonni Guerin, MD, is director of breast cancer treatment and prevention at Overlook Medical Center.  She is a medical oncologist with a special interest in breast cancer and clinical trials at Overlook Medical Center’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.  She is a member of Atlantic Medical Group.