Does your dog have a skin tumor? Was he recently diagnosed with cancer or is he suspected to have cancer?
Are you interested in obtaining a second opinion from a board-certified medical oncologist to learn more about a recent diagnosis? Do you want to make sure that the prognosis you've been given is accurate? Do you want to make sure that you're up to date on the latest treatment options and that nothing is being overlooked?
If you've answered yes to any of the previous questions, the next step is to find an oncologist and book a consultation.
So what's that next step? If you're interested in a second opinion, where do you look and what do you ask?
Some oncologists will require that your dog has a diagnosis of cancer prior to scheduling your first oncology consultation. This would involve your primary care veterinarian taking samples of the tumor (either with an aspirate or biopsy) to obtain a diagnosis prior to the oncology consultation. This makes the oncology appointment more efficient. The oncologist can then focus on providing more accurate information with various treatment options. They will likely also discuss additional testing that's recommended to ensure that cancer has not spread (called metastasis).
Many oncologists (myself included) don't require having a diagnosis or referral prior to scheduling a consultation. This means that if you're worried your dog may have cancer you can just call your nearest oncologist and book the appointment - your dog does not need to already have a diagnosis and your vet doesn't have to refer you.
Some people have known their family veterinarian for decades and feel guilty for getting a second opinion. Try not to feel this way. A general practitioner doesn't have the same knowledge that a specialist has and a specialist doesn't have the same knowledge that a general practitioner has. We all have our own areas of expertise and have to understand when it's best to let someone else provide guidance or care.
To locate your nearest oncologist try the following:
(1) Ask your primary care veterinarian to recommend a local oncologist that they commonly work with.
(2) Perform a Google search for "veterinary oncologist" + your town. OR "veterinary specialty clinic" + your town. If you live in a small town, then search in the nearest large town or small city.
(3) Search the following two resources: veterinary specialists or veterinary cancer society. Most board-certified oncologists will be listed on one of these two resources, but they're not 100% up to date.
If you don't have an oncologist nearby, some board-certified internists will also treat oncology patients. While this is not ideal (as they don't have the expertise of an oncologist) meeting with them can still be very helpful.
Dr. Lori Cesario
Board Certified Veterinary Oncologist
PS: I'm happy to now offer online oncology consultations. Learn more about how this service can help by visiting the Vet Cancer Consultants site.
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