When and How to Get a Second Opinion

IMAGE Jack, a 50-year-old office worker, discovered a small lump on the side of his neck. He scheduled a visit with his primary care doctor, who examined the lump and ordered tests. When the tests results were in, Jack's doctor explained that the lump was pre-cancerous. Treatment options were to closely monitor the lump or have it surgically removed.Explaining the pros and cons of each option, the doctor stated that, in his opinion, the best option would be to remove the lump. After asking his doctor a number of questions, Jack said he would like to take a few days to think about what to do. The doctor agreed and suggested that Jack consider getting a second opinion. In Jack's case, the second opinion confirmed the impression of his primary care doctor.

When Should You Get a Second Opinion?

What if your doctor does not suggest that you seek out a second opinion? How do you determine whether your situation warrants one?Unless your condition is life threatening and requires emergency care, it is never a bad idea to seek a second opinion. In many cases, seeking a second opinion is not only warranted, but necessary. These circumstances include anytime the following occurs:
  • A condition or problem is considered serious
  • Surgery is one of the treatment options suggested
  • Numerous possible treatment options are available
  • After consulting with your doctor, you still have a number of unanswered questions
  • You are told by the doctor that a specific type of treatment cannot be used to treat your condition
  • You are told by the doctor that nothing or nothing more can be done to treat your condition
  • Your condition returns after treatment
  • A cause for your symptoms is not found, but the symptoms continue
  • You feel that there is something wrong with the diagnosis or suggested treatment for your condition

Is It Too Late?

What if you begin receiving treatment and then decide that you would like to get a second opinion? Is it too late? It is best to seek a second opinion soon after a condition or problem is diagnosed. However, it is never too late, even after treatment—with the exception of surgery—has begun.

Why Should You Bother With a Second Opinion?

Conditions that may require second opinions are usually complicated and poorly understood. If you seek a second opinion, find a doctor who specializes in the condition. There may be a number of benefits to getting a second opinion, including:
  • Having a better understanding of your condition
  • Getting your questions answered
  • Removing any doubts
  • Helping you to weigh the benefits and risks of the recommended treatment options
  • Helping you to make an informed, educated decision as to what treatment is best for you
Because medicine is not an exact science and many conditions can mimic the symptoms of other conditions, diagnosis can be difficult. As a result, getting a second opinion can be help make certain that the original diagnosis is correct.

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