Twilah Richardson got a second opinion—twice.(TWILAH RICHARDSON)Twilah Richardson, 51, of Allentown, Pa., got second opinions at two separate stages of her breast cancer odyssey.

The first time, she was advised by a general surgeon to get a bilateral mastectomy, and she wanted to be quite sure there was no other option. "I wasn't prepared mentally to deal with a bilateral mastectomy; I felt this enormous attachment to my breasts," recalls Richardson—who did end up going ahead with the surgery, however, because the second surgeon eventually advised that too.

More about decision-making

But when her surgeon and oncologist suggested she wouldn't need any post-mastectomy treatment and after an axillary node dissection came back negative, she looked around again for another doctor to back them up. Richardson consulted with an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania who instead recommended chemotherapy followed by radiation.

She went with the second approach—a treatment protocol that she finally completed in 2008—for a number of reasons: "I like my [second] oncologist; she's very accomplished, and I feel that the knowledge about the disease is greater at a teaching hospital."