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Your cancer diagnosis - Do you need a second opinion?

Description

Cancer is a serious disease, and you should feel confident in your diagnosis and comfortable with your treatment plan. If you have doubts about either, talking to another doctor can help give you peace of mind. Getting a second opinion can help confirm the opinion of your first doctor, or provide guidance on other treatment options.

Collaborative Cancer Care

Cancer care often involves a group or collaborative approach. It is possible that your doctor may have already discussed your case with other doctors. This is often the case if your doctor is considering surgery or radiation therapy as possible treatments for your cancer. Sometimes, you may meet with these different specialty doctors yourself.

Some cancer centers often arrange a group consult where patients meet with the different doctors that may be involved in their care.

Many hospitals and cancer centers have committees called a tumor board. During these meetings, cancer doctors, surgeons, radiation therapy doctors, nurses, and others discuss cancer cases and their treatment. Doctors of different cancer specialties review x-rays and pathology together and exchange ideas about the best recommendation to make to you. This is a good way for your doctor to get further information about how to treat your cancer.

Should You Get a Second Opinion?

You should not worry about asking your doctor for a second opinion. It is your right as a patient to have one. Doctors are usually happy to help patients arrange a second opinion. Your doctor may even recommend it when the best treatment approach for your cancer is not clear.

You should seriously think about getting a second opinion if:

You can get a second opinion even if you already had treatment. A second doctor can make recommendations for how your treatment will progress or may change.

How to Get a Second Opinion

Start by telling your doctor you wish to have a second opinion. Ask if they can give you a list of doctors for you to contact. Other ways to find doctors for a second opinion include:

The new doctor will meet with you and perform a physical exam. They will also review your medical history and test results. When you meet with the second doctor:

What if the Second Opinion Disagrees with the First?

Chances are good that the second opinion will be similar to that of your first doctor. If that is the case, you can feel more confident in your diagnosis and treatment plan.

However, the second doctor may have different ideas about your diagnosis or treatment. If that happens, Do not worry -- you still have choices. You could go back to your first doctor and discuss the second opinion. You may decide together to change your treatment based on this new information. You can also seek the opinion of a third doctor. This could help you decide which of the first two options is better for you.

Keep in mind that even if you get a second or third opinion, you do not have to switch doctors. You get to decide which doctor will provide your treatment.

References

ASCO Cancer.Net website. Seeking a second opinion. www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/cancer-care-team/seeking-second-opinion. Updated March 2021. Accessed June 6, 2022.

Hillen MA, Medendorp NM, Daams JG, Smets EMA. Patient-driven second opinions in oncology: a systematic review. Oncologist. 2017;22(10):1197-1211. PMID: 28606972 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28606972/.

National Cancer Institute website. Finding cancer care. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/services/finding-cancer-care. Updated February 1, 2024. Accessed February 13, 2024.

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Review Date: 1/6/2022  

Reviewed By: Richard LoCicero, MD, private practice specializing in Hematology and Medical Oncology, Longstreet Cancer Center, Gainesville, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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