Getting a Second Opinion

The thought of asking for a second opinion can create anxiety. But, you are the #1 advocate for your care. Here are a few things to prepare you for that conversation.
July 6, 2020 | 3 min read

When it comes to making an important medical decision, you want to know as much as possible about your condition and treatment options. A second opinion may provide you with additional information and help you make the best decisions for your health.

Here are some situations where you might want to get a second opinion:1,2

  • You have a serious or life-threatening disease, or your condition significantly affects your quality of life
  • Your diagnosis is unclear
  • Your symptoms continue after treatment
  • The recommended treatment is experimental
  • There is no established consensus or approved treatment
  • You are considering participating in a clinical trial
  • You are considering an experimental approach or a procedure that involves experimental instruments or devices
  • There are multiple treatment options

Don’t be concerned about offending your doctor when you bring up the subject of a second opinion. It’s a challenge for any one physician to know and/or use every available treatment option. You need to make the best decision for your health.

If you decide to seek out a second opinion, it’s okay to ask your doctor for a referral, but consider asking for physician at a different facility. Some hospitals also offer second-opinion services. There are also private companies that provide second opinions by reviewing a patient’s records. Do your homework to be sure these institutions are reputable.

Some suggestions for getting a second opinion:1

  • Be polite when raising the issue with your doctor
  • See someone at a different institution
  • Advocate for yourself – the ultimate choice is yours

Preparing for a second opinion appointment:3

  • Write down your questions ahead of time, such as:
    • What is my diagnosis?
    • What are the next steps?
    • Am I eligible for a clinical trial?
    • What are my treatment options? What are the side effects?
  • Take a friend or family member with you
  • Ask the doctor if you can record the conversation

Even if both doctors agree, that second opinion is still beneficial. Afterward, you will have peace of mind knowing that you did everything you could to get a correct diagnosis and effective treatment plan. It’s your health and your life, so do not hesitate to do what’s best for you.

  1. Alice Kahn, “How to Ask for a Second Opinion.” Web MD. May 15, 2000.
  2. Cleveland Clinic Staff. “Why You Should Consider a Second Medical Opinion.” Cleveland Clinic. November 18, 2014.
  3. Patient Empowerment Network Staff. “How to Prepare for a Second Opinion Doctor Appointment.” Patient Empowerment Network. October 29, 2015.
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