Even so, it makes sense to proceed with a
second opinion if there is any question in
your mind. You do not want to look back
after going through treatment and wish
that you had more information.
Here are some considerations:
1) It’s wise to tell your doctor that you’re
planning to get a second opinion.
2) When looking for doctors to provide
a second opinion, do your homework.
Find experts who have experience treating your type of cancer. Check with your
current doctor, advocacy groups that
focus on your type of cancer, and knowledgeable friends and family.
3) Seek out a doctor not part of your
current doctor’s practice. Physicians
at other facilities may have slightly
4) Make sure your insurance covers a
second opinion with the doctor you have
chosen. If your insurance does not cover
this doctor, you may choose to pay for a
single visit or to find another physician
who is covered under your plan.
5) When you schedule the appointment,
be sure to tell the scheduling staff
that you are seeking a second opinion
and ask what information they need.
For example, you might be asked to
send imaging scans, tissue samples,
pathology slides and reports, and
blood test results. You should also
be prepared to answer any questions
about your medical history.
6) Be clear about what you want to achieve
from getting a second opinion. Do you
want someone to weigh in on your
current treatment, or are you considering
PHOTO COUR TES Y OF BE TH ISRAEL DEACONESS MEDICAL CEN TER
Second opinions can be a blessing or a bane. Getting another doctor’s take on your diagnosis or treatment can be reassuring if both doctors agree, but overwhelming if opinions differ.
A second opinion can provide additional information to determine the best treatment course.
switching your care to another physician? If you are looking for additional
perspective without necessarily changing
your doctor, you may choose to travel
some distance for this appointment.
Going long distances for regular care
would be difficult.
7) If you are looking to change doctors,
remember that chemistry matters, but
so do experience and expertise. No
matter whom you choose, you should
feel heard and respected.
8) If you plan to continue receiving care
with your current doctor, ask the
second doctor how to get a copy of the
visit notes and recommendations, so
you can share this information with
your current doctor.
9) Organize your thoughts and questions
before the appointment to make the
best use of the time.
10) Be prepared for the possibility of
hearing something that will complicate your situation. It is reassuring
to get confirmation for a treatment
plan, but it can be distressing to have
someone suggest a different course.
Navigating cancer and its treatment can
bring a lot of uncertainty. Asking the right
questions and having a clear purpose can
help you get information to navigate your
treatment course with confidence.
HESTER HILL SCHNIPPER, a licensed independent
clinical social worker, is a breast cancer survivor
and recently retired from her role as the manager
of oncology social work at Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center in Boston. She continues to write a
blog, Living With Cancer, for the hospital’s website.
YOUR CANCER GUIDE | HESTER HILL SCHNIPPER