When Should You Get a Second Opinion About a Medical Condition (Such As Cancer)?

When facing a life-altering diagnosis or a decision to take drastic treatments to improve on an illness, you may think about getting a second opinion. There’s no harm in asking another medical professional about your recent bad news or to test further, but there are times when seeing a doctor may not be necessary. Let’s look at why a second opinion is required.

Why Should You Get a Second Option and How?

Unless you were recently diagnosed with late-stage cancer or an illness that requires an immediate operation to improve your success, you should likely get a second opinion. 

The reasons for getting a second option vary based on the diagnosis or treatment, but knowing how to ask for other options can make the difference between being re-tested at all.

  • Ask the doctor you received the diagnosis from what they would do in your situation.
  • Ask for recommendations for other doctors that specialize in that cancer or could help.
  • Explain that you want to ensure that this diagnosis is accurate before starting treatment.

Don’t be afraid of hurting your doctor’s feelings; this is your life we’re talking about. A doctor will rarely be offended enough to stonewall you, but if that happens, you should seek a second opinion immediately. When looking for a second opinion, bring the following documents:

  • The surgery or biopsy report
  • The operative report of a surgery, if you had one
  • The discharge summary, if you went to the hospital
  • An overview of your current GPs treatment plan.
  • A list of the drugs your GP expects you to take.

Speak to the hospital or clinic you were diagnosed with to receive copies of the above documents.

Top Reasons for Seeking Another Doctor 

Getting a Second Opinion About Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can shock your family, even in its early stages. For cancers like breast cancer, many women will ask for a second option to ensure its accuracy before receiving treatment, as indicated in this article. However, that typically only happens if the patient is uncomfortable with the team that diagnoses them. Since cancer is emotional and follow-up care is long, patients want to be sure they must undergo treatment, primarily for rare cancers.

Getting a Second Opinion About Surgery 

Surgery is seen as a “last resort” option for most patients because it’s expensive and will cause immediate complications. It’s also dangerous. Patients who undergo surgeries, regardless of location, must recover away from their jobs or other familial responsibilities, like taking care of children. A second opinion will be valuable for patients that can’t afford to take time off work.

Getting a Second Opinion When Treatment is Unclear

In the medical world, there are plenty of illnesses that overlap with each other or aren’t diagnoses unless other options are crossed out. For example, Lyme disease, which is treatable in its early stages, is often confused with other illnesses like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. If Lyme disease goes undiagnosed for too long, death is inevitable. Pushing for a second opinion or further testing can help you get diagnosed with the appropriate illness.

Getting a Second Opinion for Your Child or Family Member

A parent of a child or a family member who cannot ask for help themselves may feel it’s necessary to speak to another doctor. Depending on the child’s age or the cognitive abilities of the family member, they won’t be able to describe their symptoms accurately. An expert pediatrician or doctor will still be able to test despite these roadblocks.

Getting a Second Opinion for Piece of Mind

Medicine is constantly changing, and some doctors simply don’t keep up with new treatment options or technology. Other doctors can help patients understand what their options are, including alternatives that are safer or more cost-effective. On the other hand, a doctor can help a patient know when it’s time to stop seeing multiple physicians, which further delays treatment. We all want to be told that there are other options, but sometimes the best one is the first.