You have the right to get a second opinion (or even third or fourth). And there are many good reasons why you should.
- Peace of mind can be the most important reason. Different doctors interpret things differently and communicate them to their patients differently as well. Even if you are absolutely comfortable with your physician, it cannot hurt to gain additional reassurances that all of your options have been explored. And if you feel your physician is making light of your case, seek another opinion elsewhere to either confirm your suspicions or put your mind at ease.
- Some insurance plans will require a second opinion before a major treatment plan is authorized. Be sure to check with your plan so there are no unexpected delays in payment processing later.
- Sometimes your initial diagnosis leaves little hope for recovery. In this case, another opinion cannot hurt and could perhaps change things for the better. Doctors specialize in different areas, but even if you are seeing a specialist for your cancer type, get another qualified opinion to confirm that the diagnosis is correct in all aspects. An tumor declared inoperable by one surgeon may be operable by another. Different doctors have had past successes with different treatments or combinations of treatments. Additional medical opinions may provide alternative treatment options. And with new treatments and clinical trials being constantly funded and approved, you may find the one doctor who can make a very big difference in your prognosis.
Finding a qualified second opinion may take some work. Some insurance plans only pay if the doctors are within their network while others will cover any qualified physician. If your plan requires a second opinion, you may be given a list from which to choose another doctor. Your primary care physician or nurse also may provide referral assistance. But in all cases with insurance, be sure to talk to your plan representative about which services are covered before you begin the referral process.
The American Medical Association (AMA) represents all medical doctors in the United States and offers a Physician Select service through its Web site at www.ama-assn.org. The service provides background and educational information about the doctors and can help you find one located near you.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is an international organization of cancer specialists involved in clinical research and patient care. Its Web site includes an oncologist directory and a database of members: www.asco.org.
There are other sources for medical referrals:
- Don't forget about your personal physician. They often encourage second opinions for their patients' peace of mind and have a list of doctors they use for referrals.
- Friends in the community and family members also may provide valuable information about doctors that have been helpful to them or their family and friends.
- Many hospitals have referral information available. Call your local hospital for more information.
- Comprehensive Cancer Centers are a wealth of information. WebMagic's Web Guide offers a list of the top 36 facilities designated by the National Cancer Institute as Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Check to see if there's one in your area that can help you.
- Contact your local health department, university, medical school, or local medical society for referral network information.