Managing Treatments

Getting a Second Medical Opinion: What You Should Know

Getting a second opinion can offer you the confidence and information you need to be a better advocate for yourself.

If you have recently gotten a diagnosis of cancer, or if your doctor has recommended a procedure, you are likely in shock. This new information can throw anyone for a loop, and you may be wondering what to do next. For many people, getting a second medical opinion can provide reassurance, encouragement or a different option. If you have ever wondered about getting a second medical opinion, here is what you need to know.

What Is a Second Opinion?

A second opinion is giving another medical professional the opportunity to review your situation and tests, giving you either a confirming or a differing diagnosis or treatment plan. You can pursue a second opinion from another oncologist, or you may ask for a second opinion from another radiologist in reading your latest scans. A second opinion does not necessarily mean switching doctors or health systems; it could just mean having a new set of eyes to look at your situation.

According to a study conducted by Mayo Clinic, there is value in seeking a second opinion. Eighty-eight percent of patients in the study received a new or refined diagnosis when they received a second opinion. Second opinions can help ensure you have the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Will Getting a Second Medical Opinion Hurt My Oncologist’s Feelings?

No! In fact, many oncologists or other medical professionals already either recommend second opinions or seek them out themselves during the diagnosis or treatment protocol development process. It is not uncommon for doctors to ask for feedback and suggestions from their peers. Your request for a second opinion will likely be greeted with support from your oncology team, and if it is not, you may want to consider working with a more patient-centric team.

How Do I Get a Second Opinion?

Securing a second opinion often means “starting from scratch.” You will need to find an oncologist who specializes in your type of cancer and make an appointment. Be sure to tell the medical office that you are seeking a second opinion, and ask what types of documents or results you should send along. Some doctors giving a second opinion want to see every test result and procedure in your medical history ahead of time, while others prefer to see you first and take it from there. The doctor could send you for additional tests or scans to help them determine their opinion.

What Do I Do With the Second Opinion?

Your second opinion will either confirm the initial diagnosis or treatment plan, or it will differ from it. If your second opinion confirms, you can return to your preferred doctor with the peace of mind that you are on the right track. In contrast, if your second opinion differs from the first, you have a decision to make. Often, a good next step is to return to your original doctor with the information from the second opinion, have a candid conversation together and determine if you can alter or modify the treatment protocol accordingly.

In the end, your treatment direction is ultimately your decision to make. Your oncologist and medical team care deeply about you and want you to succeed; they should take your opinions and preferences into consideration while still working diligently to eliminate the cancer. Getting a second opinion can help you advocate for your best outcome.

UVA Cancer Center's doctors offer second opinions to ensure your cancer is treated precisely, in the right place at the right time.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress