Cancer Diagnoses: Getting a Second Opinion

May 12, 2016

Cancer Diagnoses: Getting a Second Opinion

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When you are diagnosed with cancer and given a treatment plan, it is important to ask questions and gain knowledge to make sure you’re making the best choice for your health. That may entail finding another doctor or specialist to talk about your diagnosis or treatment plan with. Though it may be uncomfortable to bring up to your doctor, getting a second opinion is actually fairly common.

Most doctors are comfortable with this request, and some insurance companies actually require you to get a second opinion before you start treatment. In fact, if your doctor has a negative reaction to you wanting to get a second opinion, that is a bad sign and you should definitely seek the opinion of another doctor. Your cancer treatment decisions are important, and in the same way, you wouldn’t buy a house without comparing a couple of them, you shouldn’t start treatment until you are aware of all your options.

During the second opinion, the doctor will perform an all-encompassing assessment of your current and past medical history, your cancer stage and type, and based on this evaluation, the doctor will make recommendations for treatment options.

Why Get a Second Opinion?

Beyond the purposes already mentioned, there are many other reasons why you should get a second opinion.

One main reason is to take control of your disease. A second opinion allows you to confirm your diagnosis and get additional detail about the type of cancer and what stage it is in. You’re able to gain perspective from experts in various oncology disciplines and tap into a wealth of oncology experience.

If you have been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer or have been told there is no treatment option for your condition, exploring a second opinion may give you access to clinical trials, which are research studies involving people. You may discover other treatment options that you didn’t know were available to you. If you have any doubts about your treatment plan, you should feel free to seek another opinion.

Another great reason why one may consider seeking a second opinion is if they aren’t comfortable with their doctor. Whatever your reason, if you feel the need to seek a second opinion, you should. It is your right as a patient to seek other opinions or additional information to give you peace of mind and confidence in your treatment choice.

Finding a Doctor for a Second Opinion

If you have a good relationship with your doctor and they are encouraging of you getting a second opinion, they may be able to recommend someone that you should go see. If you don’t know where to start your search, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has an oncologist database, which is full of ASCO members who have made their contact information public.

Other places that you can begin your search to find a second opinion are:

  • Cancer organizations and patient advocate groups
  • Local hospitals, medical clinics, or cancer centers
  • Medical associations who offer a searchable database of doctors such as, The American Board of Medical Specialties or the searchable database of doctors who accept Medicare.

When you are choosing a doctor, you should make sure you ask about their credentials, training, and experience. Then you should ask that your medical records, original x-rays, and all test results be shared with the new doctor so that you won’t have to repeat them.

Some insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you have been diagnosed with cancer. When choosing your doctor or specialist, make sure you ask your insurance provider about coverage. Some insurance agencies may require you to select from a specific group of doctors.

During the Appointment

During the consultation, take notes so that you can review it later. Another tip to make sure your appointment is successful is to take someone else so they can help you recall what was discussed. Be sure to ask questions and especially to ask for clarification on anything that you don’t understand. It is important for you to feel assured that you have all the necessary information to make the best decision in regards to your treatment plan.

Before you go to the consultation, make a list of questions you want answers to. Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis so that you can be confident in your cancer care planning. You should ask questions regarding the type of cancer you have, the symptoms associated, diagnosis procedures, treatment, clinical trials, and support care services.

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