As actress and singer Rita Wilson recovers from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she is sounding the alarm on the importance of getting a second opinion.
That's "excellent advice," says Dr. Elisa Port, co-director of the Mount Sinai Hospital Dubin Breast Cancer Center in New York. She explained that as well as getting a second opinion about their surgeon, it could be just as important for people to get a second opinion from a pathologist.
"There's a whole team of people behind that surgeon that form the surgeon's team and the team is really only as strong as the weakest link," Port said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." The pathologist is really the person who looks at the tissue under the microscope and feeds the surgeon the information that will tell them, that will dictate care from there on in."
Wilson and her doctors had been monitoring a condition called lobular carcinoma in situ, an area of abnormal cell growth which can increase cancer risk. After a breast biopsy came back negative for cancer, a friend recommended she check with a second pathologist. That pathologist spotted the cancer, which was then confirmed by a third pathologist.
"There's clear-cut normal which no one would miss and clear-cut cancer that no one would miss, but then there's a whole spectrum in between that is subject to interpretation," Port said.
She also noted that it's not unusual for medical professionals to seek guidance on certain issues.
"Even among experts, there are certain things that they may not agree. And it's important to have all that information up front so you can take that and factor that into your plan before doing anything specific."
While Port does not advocate delaying care, she said a breast cancer diagnosis is not such an emergency that a woman has to rush into treatment.
"You do have the time to take, whether it's a week or two or three ... take that time if something doesn't feel right, and particularly in those in-between type entities," Port said.
She also said that Wilson's invasive lobular cancer is "no worse, no better" than ductal cancer, the more common kind.
"Invasive ductal cancer makes up about 80 percent of all invasive breast cancers, lobular makes up about 10 percent. It's less common but no more aggressive," Port said. "I think there are very few cases where you have to act immediately and lobular does not make it more so that."