Before Treatment: Preparing for Long-Term & Late Effects
March 27, 2013
At Diagnosis: Identifying Genetic Risks
March 24, 2013
After Treatment: Developing a Survivorship Care Plan
March 27, 2013
At Diagnosis: Learning About Cancer Online
March 25, 2013
Before Treatment: Seeking a Second Opinion
March 27, 2013
After Treatment: Handling Fear of Recurrence
March 26, 2013
At Diagnosis: Balancing Cancer & Work
March 27, 2013
Glossary
May 09, 2011
Welcome to CURE's Annual Cancer Guide
March 15, 2013
Caregiving: Practicing Self-Care
March 27, 2013
Caregiving: Taking on a New Role
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Staying Active
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Managing Financial Matters
March 26, 2013
During Treatment: Getting Proper Nutrition
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Handling Insurance Matters
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Understanding Clinical Trials
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Making Medical Decisions
March 28, 2013
At Diagnosis: Assessing Age-Related Issues
March 26, 2012
At Diagnosis: Dealing With Emotions
March 26, 2013
Before Treatment: Making Sense of Cancer Therapies
March 26, 2013
At Diagnosis: Understanding Pathology & Staging
March 26, 2013
Introduction: What is Cancer?
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Dealing With Side Effects
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Preparing for Long-Term & Late Effects
March 27, 2013
At Diagnosis: Identifying Genetic Risks
March 24, 2013
After Treatment: Developing a Survivorship Care Plan
March 27, 2013
At Diagnosis: Learning About Cancer Online
March 25, 2013
Currently Viewing
Before Treatment: Seeking a Second Opinion
March 27, 2013
At Diagnosis: Balancing Cancer & Work
March 27, 2013
Glossary
May 09, 2011
Welcome to CURE's Annual Cancer Guide
March 15, 2013
Caregiving: Practicing Self-Care
March 27, 2013
Caregiving: Taking on a New Role
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Staying Active
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Managing Financial Matters
March 26, 2013
During Treatment: Getting Proper Nutrition
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Handling Insurance Matters
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Understanding Clinical Trials
March 28, 2013
Before Treatment: Making Medical Decisions
March 28, 2013
At Diagnosis: Assessing Age-Related Issues
March 26, 2012
At Diagnosis: Dealing With Emotions
March 26, 2013
Before Treatment: Making Sense of Cancer Therapies
March 26, 2013
At Diagnosis: Understanding Pathology & Staging
March 26, 2013
Introduction: What is Cancer?
March 27, 2013
During Treatment: Dealing With Side Effects
March 28, 2013

Before Treatment: Seeking a Second Opinion

Why and how patients should get another opinion about their diagnosis and treatment

PUBLISHED March 27, 2013

Every patient has the option to get a second opinion about any aspect of diagnosis or treatment. Whether there is concern about a recommended treatment or just a desire to hear the diagnosis confirmed from another physician, getting a second opinion is appropriate. Patients might also seek a second opinion if the pathologist is having difficulty making a diagnosis, if they have a rare type of cancer that their doctor is unfamiliar with, if they think their doctor underestimates the seriousness of their disease or if their medical insurance plan requires one. Patients can request a second review of their pathology slides or another opinion on treatment if their choices are numerous and they want reassurance they have chosen wisely. In some cases, a second opinion could clarify a diagnosis or provide treatment options about which they may not have been aware.

Find Referrals
Patients should seek a second opinion from a physician outside the same practice as their current doctor. They shouldn’t worry about offending their doctor—most oncologists expect patients to seek a second opinion. Some suggest it and offer recommendations. Many local hospitals and regional cancer centers, such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City (mskcc.org) and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston (mdanderson.org), as well as institutions, including the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (nccn.org), have physician referral services that provide consultations for second opinions. 

Seeking a second opinion from an expert in the patient’s specific cancer can provide another viewpoint. Such an expert may suggest clinical trials the patient’s doctor may be unaware of or confirm a treatment recommendation. Support groups and other cancer survivors may also be good sources for recommending oncologists and specialists.

Cover All the Bases
Before seeking a second opinion‚ patients should obtain information about their disease, including diagnosis, staging, treatment options and how recurrence might be prevented. They should ask their physician to send test results and imaging scans to the consulting doctor. Patients may or may not need to repeat any tests, but the second doctor will want to look over existing tests or scans.

For some insurance plans, second opinions are covered or even required before the plan approves payment for treatment. Some plans limit coverage to certain physicians or hospitals, so it is always best for patients to consider their coverage plan when coordinating second-opinion appointments.

Weigh the Options
Some patients may get confused about what treatment advice to follow if the second doctor recommends a different treatment, which may be likely if their cancer does not have a set standard of therapy. For example‚ both surgery and radiation therapy may be suggested as options for a patient with early prostate cancer because both treatments have excellent long-term cure rates. A urologist who specializes in prostate surgery might be more inclined to recommend surgery than a radiation oncologist would. In that case, the decision may depend on how the patient weighs the side effects of each treatment with his own personal views and lifestyle. A patient’s primary care physician may also have helpful advice about weighing inconsistent recommendations.

Patients might also want to seek a third opinion if they are still uncomfortable with their diagnosis or treatment options. While it may not be necessary for their cancer to be treated by a specialist, they may want to hear the opinion of someone who focuses only on their type of cancer, especially if their first two doctors recommended different therapies or had conflicting diagnosis results.

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