Thursday, February 08, 2007
When should you seek a second opinion?
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There is an old joke that goes like this: "A patient goes to see a doctor. The doctor tells him he is fat. The patient says he wants a second opinion. The doctor says OK. You're ugly too." Patients sometimes desire a second physician to confirm what the first one is telling them. One of the concerns that patients have in these situations is that the first doctor might be upset if they ask for a second opinion. For that reason, they are afraid to say something about it to the doctor. It is important to recognize that the key basis to any physician-patient relationship is communication. Thus, if a patient would like to get a second opinion, they should feel comfortable saying so to their doctor. If they do not feel comfortable, there is more of a problem there than just the need for a second opinion. There are two basic kinds of second opinions that patients can get. The first of those have to do with getting an answer from someone in the same specialty as the doctor they are seeing. That could be as simple as the doctor calling one of his/her partners in. It sometimes can involve going to see a colleague of the physician. The other type of second opinion is to go see a specialist in the area. Sometimes the specialist can be close by. Sometimes it may mean that the patient has to travel a distance to see the specialist. Most of the time the patient will get the same opinion from the second physician. That helps make the decision easy. Sometimes the opinion will be different. That makes the decision as to what to do a little harder. Patients may wonder why they could receive two different opinions. Medicine is not always an exact science. Sometimes there is more than one way to treat a problem. Sometimes different specialists will look at things in different ways. I once had a relative with a rash on his foreskin. He went to a urologist who told him that he could fix it by circumcising him. He went to a dermatologist who told him it was psoriasis. While a circumcision would have taken care of the immediate problem, it would not have cured the psoriasis. In that instance a second opinion helped to make the diagnosis. Thus even when two physicians disagree, it does not always mean that one is wrong and one is right. They both may have a different way of doing things. While second opinions are sometimes useful, some patients want more than that. They are looking for an answer that may not be there. That leads them to visit doctor after doctor looking for that answer. That kind of doctor shopping rarely is helpful. Not every situation would benefit from getting a second opinion. Sometimes, however, second opinions are very helpful. The best way to get one is to be honest and up front with your physician. The response you get should be one of willingness to make sure that you are content that you have explored all the possibilities.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Wellness Community is offering Kids Circle, Teen Talk Program
There are over 18,000 people currently battling cancer in Delaware. The emotional stress experienced by children and teenagers who have a parent, grandparent, or sibling with cancer is often overlooked. Since 1998, The Wellness Community-Delaware has provided emotional support services to children and teens through their Kids Circle and Teen Talk programs. These programs use movement, art, storytelling, games, and other fun activities to help children and teenagers deal with their emotions. The Kids Circle program is intended for children ages 5-12 years, while the Teen Talk program is geared for children 13-18 years. A separate group for parents and caregivers is simultaneously offered. A diagnosis of cancer creates special issues related to child rearing, talking about the illness with children, and how a family member's illness affects the child. According to Sean Hebbel, LCSW and program director for The Wellness Community-Delaware, "Isolation and feelings of helplessness are common to both children and parents living through the experience of cancer in their lives. The Kids Circle and Teen Talk programs provide a forum for both children and parents to discuss their feelings and get support from each other." When a family member is dealing with cancer children can often feel isolated and left out. If children are unable to express their feelings, they may act out behaviorally. For this reason, it's a good idea to make teachers, counselors, and other people close to the child aware of the situation. The Kids Circle and Teen Talk programs provide kids with an outlet to talk about their emotions in a caring, supportive, and therapeutic environment. A special team of facilitators engages the children in a variety of different activities. The Wellness Community-Delaware will host information sessions about the Kids Circle and Teen Talk program on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 1 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. The program is free, but you must register in advance. To RSVP for either information session, or to learn more about any of our other free support programs for people with cancer and their families in Sussex County, call 227-1155.

Nanticoke cholesterol screening
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be offering cholesterol screenings on February 14, 17 and 21, from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Nanticoke Stein Highway building, located in the former PK complex, next to County Bank. The Lipid Profile test requires a 12-hour fasting and reads the HDL and LDL blood levels. Cost for the Lipid Profile is $15. No pre-registration is required. In addition to the cholesterol screening FREE blood pressure checks will be offered. Results from the cholesterol screening will be mailed approximately two weeks after the test is performed. For additional information, call 629-6611 extension 2404.

Give Daffodils. Give Hope.
The American Cancer Society's Western Sussex Unit is sponsoring its annual Daffodil Days through February 22. The daffodil is the flower of hope and by supporting the American Cancer Society you give hope to those touched by cancer. The money raised through Daffodil Days funds programs and research grants that make an incredible difference in many lives. Daffodils are offered for a donation of $10 a bunch of 10 cut flowers or $10 for a single pot of bulbs. For the second year, the American Cancer Society is offering a "Bear and a Bunch," which is an adorable Boyd's Bear plus one bunch (10 stems) of cut daffodils for $25 (limited number available). Daffodils will be delivered and/or available for pickup at Cedar Avenue Medical Associates, 1 Cedar Ave., Seaford, between Tuesday, March 13, and Friday, March 16. Call Mary Catherine Hopkins at 875-7308 or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-937-9696 for more information.

Delaware Healthy Living Expo
The Delaware Healthy Living Expo, featuring an array of speakers and workshops on issues of family, physical, spiritual, financial, emotional, and intellectual wellness, will be held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington on March 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Headlining the workshop programs will be Lisa Whaley, founder and president of Life Work Synergy, LLC. Whaley, who is also an accomplished author, will present "Finding the Off Switch in an Always On World" to give insight to attendees on finding a harmonious balance between work and life. Four additional speakers will follow addressing healing, self-sabotage, positive attitudes, and exercise. Admission to the Expo is $7. A special luncheon package is also available for $17. You may preregister online at For more information about the expo, visit or call 215-968-4593.

Chronic pain relief
"Finding Hope with Chronic Pain" is a seminar that will pursue the effects, influences, and interventions for chronic pain. Cindy Heck will be presenting this seminar at Laurel Wesleyan Church on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Heck is an author and RN, with a masters degree in counseling. She will share from personal experience and Biblical truth how to develop a heart of praise in the midst of your trail and be assured of the healing presence of God. Admission if pre-registered is $20, or $25 at the door, which includes light refreshments and workbook. Register online at or call the church office at 875-5380.