People diagnosed with cancer sometimes ask me if their doctor will take offense if they get a second opinion.
The answer is no. Nearly all doctors today are receptive to patients getting second opinions. (And if you have one of those rare doctors who does take offense, you should seriously consider getting a new doctor.)
Here are a few practical suggestions:
* It’s entirely appropriate to ask your doctor for a recommendation as to where to go for a second opinion. This is especially true for rare cancers. You’ll want a second opinion from someone who sees that particular type of cancer on a regular basis. In addition, your doctor’s office can help arrange the appointment and send a copy of your medical records for you.
* You should ask your doctor how long you can safely wait before beginning treatment. Some cancers are relatively slow moving and a delay in beginning treatment won’t make any difference. Other cancers are more aggressive and treatment should begin quickly
* We usually think of second opinions in terms of treatment decisions, but it’s also possible to request a second opinion on the pathology itself. That is, your slides can be sent to another institution for a different pathologist to review.
What should you do if your second opinion differs from the original recommendation? You can ask the two doctors to talk with each other to see if they can reach a consensus. You can seek a third opinion. Another option I recommend is to meet with your family doctor who can often help explain the options and place them in context.
While it’s important to gather information and recommendations, I also encourage people to listen to their guts. Be aware of which decision lets you sleep better at night. Listen to that voice.
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