One of the most critical challenges a patient will face is how to make decisions about healthcare. With advances in technology and treatments, there are more options and more information available to patients – and their doctors – than ever before. The fact is, not all doctors are the same. Differences in training, specialty, and even local practices can have a great influence on the treatment plan a doctor recommends. Because treatments are constantly improving, it is important to find someone who has recent, relevant experience with your type of cancer.
Medical experts agree, seeking a second opinion is a good idea if you are:
- Diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, such as heart disease or cancer
- Given a poor or unclear diagnosis on health problem
- Considering a major surgery or are told additional surgery is needed
- Asked to participate in a clinical trial
- Considering a provider quality check
Make sure that the doctor you see for a second opinion has access to all of the records from your original diagnosis, and do not be afraid to ask questions! Remember, the purpose of the consultation is to get the information you need to feel comfortable with your decision. The meeting itself might be overwhelming, so write down the information you learn so that you can refer to it later.
Patients sometimes worry that seeking a second opinion will be seen as challenging the authority of their doctor, or will be viewed as a “betrayal.” However, it’s important to remember that cancer patients nearly always have a team of doctors, nurses, and specialists managing their treatment, and doctors regularly consult with one another on treatment decisions. Second opinions, even third opinions are not at all uncommon in cancer care, and seeking one is your right as a patient.
Think of a second opinion as taking charge of your health, and assembling the best possible team so that you can rest assured you have made the best possible decisions about your care.