Asking for a Second Opinion

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If you’re feeling uncomfortable about asking your doctor about getting a second opinion, you’re not alone — many patients feel this way. You might be afraid of offending the doctor and possibly damaging a relationship that’s just taking shape. After all, this is the one person in the best position to help in this moment of crisis — so it’s no wonder you might be nervous about asking to consult someone else! Try to remember that doctors are used to having patients get second opinions and in many cases welcome the information second opinions provide.

You might find it helpful to frame your request in these or similar terms:

  • “Doctor, I trust you and appreciate your help thus far, but this is all so new to me and I feel that a second opinion could help me make sense of everything.”
  • “I want to go into treatment with some reassurance that my pathology report is correct and I have explored all treatment options. So I’d like to get a second opinion before we move ahead.”
  • “I really respect your opinion, but I never make any major decision without talking to more than one expert. I feel like I have one chance to get this right! I think I need the reassurance of a second opinion.”
  • “I owe it to myself and my family to make sure all of my bases are covered. So I’d like to get a second opinion on everything we have discussed.”

Involving your doctor is important because the second doctor (or team of doctors) will want to see all of your medical records, imaging studies, and lab and test results to date. You will need your doctor’s help in getting copies that you can share with the second doctor. Also, some health insurance plans require that the second opinion is requested by your doctor, rather than by you.

In most cases, your doctor will respect your wish for a second opinion and may even be able to help you find another physician to consult. If your doctor gets angry or defensive, stand your ground — and if he or she continues to react in this way, it may be a sign that you’re better off finding a new doctor anyway.

Expert Quote

"In my experience as a physician, I see patients seeking second opinions on a regular basis. I respect the process that each patient feels she needs to take in order to feel comfortable and confident about her choice of doctor — including having me be her doctor."

-- Marisa Weiss, M.D., president and founder, Breastcancer.org

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