A second opinion is an important part of becoming educated about your treatment options. The more you learn about your diagnosis and treatment, the better chance you have of receiving the most appropriate care. Second opinions will not offend competent physicians. They will, however, provide reassurance to you and your family and ultimately allow you to take the proper path.
A second opinion is a review by an independent physician of your cancer diagnosis and the treatment recommendations. Either the patient or the primary physician can initiate the second-opinion process. This doctor or team of doctors will review the following:
- Pathology report (how the cancer looks under the microscope)
- The extent of cancer
- The physical condition of the patient
- The proposed treatment
The doctor(s) then communicate their opinion regarding treatment to both the patient and the primary physician.
Second opinions are more likely to be comprehensive and inclusive of every possible perspective when performed in a cancer center with a multidisciplinary team, which usually includes surgeons, oncologists, radiation therapists and sub-specialist oncologists.
Patients, relatives and friends need to keep in mind that second opinions are a normal part of cancer management and they should not be concerned about hurting the feelings of the primary physician. If you decide to obtain an independent second opinion, it is important to communicate with the primary physician not only to obtain needed information for review, but also to keep the treating physician informed. Most physicians welcome the opportunity to have another consultant review and approve their care decisions, or perhaps suggest another treatment that may be better.
Some insurance companies don’t cover the cost of a second opinion. But many insurance and healthcare providers do because they understand the importance. In some situations, insurers will even insist on a second opinion. This is often the case when the primary physician advises an expensive treatment. So it’s important to check with your provider before getting a second opinion to ensure you’re covered.