National Breast Cancer Coalition

Get a second opinion about your diagnosis and pathology.

There are two kinds of second opinions that can help you. You should get both kinds of second opinions.

  1. You should have a second pathologist determine your specific diagnosis. This is called a "pathology second opinion."
  2. You should visit more than one doctor to talk about your treatment choices. This is called a "treatment second opinion."

Get a pathology second opinion before getting a treatment second opinion. A pathology second opinion can help you be sure that your diagnosis and disease characteristics are correct. This is very important, because doctors base their treatment advice on your pathology report. If your pathology report is wrong, you might get the wrong care. Every so often, it's difficult for pathologists to give a clear-cut diagnosis. So you may get conflicting pathology reports. In this case, it's especially important to learn as much as you can about your specific diagnosis.

To get a pathology second opinion you must have your breast tissue slides sent to a second breast pathologist. You can arrange to have this done on your own. You do not need your doctor's OK to have a pathology second opinion. But you may have to pay for it yourself. This is what you need to do:

  1. Find a breast pathologist at a different hospital or cancer center to give the second opinion. One way is to call the pathology department at another hospital. The hospital doesn't have to be near you. You can call hospitals anywhere in the country. Ask them if they have a breast pathologist who could review your breast tissue slides. 
  2. Have you found a breast pathologist to review your slides? If so, call the pathology department at the hospital where your biopsy was done. Ask them to send your breast tissue slides to the breast pathologist who will give the second opinion.

Ask your doctors if they will keep your breast tissue.

Right now, researchers are trying to find more targeted ways to treat specific types of breast cancer. This is a promising area of research. It holds the future of breast cancer treatment.

Your breast tumor gives important information about your disease. This information may be important to your future care. It might help you later as new treatments and drugs come out. Your tissue also contains information that can help breast cancer researchers. This is why we think it is important that you ask that your breast tissue be stored properly and that you have access to it in the future. Ask your doctors these questions:

  • How will my breast tissue be preserved?
  • Can it be flash-frozen and stored?
  • How can I access my tissue in the future?