|Asking For a Second Opinion – When and How You Should Request One
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Get a second opinion when your doctor proposes a treatment or diagnoses a malady from tests that are open to interpretation—it may just save your life.
The dreaded words—cancer, surgery, prognosis—have just clobbered you at the doctor’s office. While you are absorbing the news, the doctor is reeling off treatment options, and probably making a recommendation. But what if that recommendation isn’t right, or isn’t right for you?
Fewer than one-third of patients who receive “difficult” diagnoses request a second opinion, in most instances because they don’t want to hurt their doctor’s feelings. But they should.
Misdiagnosis occurs in up to one in five patient encounters, and that might include you! Even if you get the right diagnosis, there is a risk your doctor may fail to offer you the most appropriate treatment option.
You don’t want to end up accepting one doctor’s opinion only to find out later that the diagnosis was wrong or that there was a better treatment option for you. Exhaust all of your avenues, so that you have peace of mind you’ve made the correct selection.
If you have been given a diagnosis based on conclusive tests—such as diabetes—there is no need for a second opinion for the diagnosis, although you should explore treatment options with your doctor. But, there are many diagnoses or recommendations (such as cancer, heart bypass surgery, varicose veins, chronic fatigue, or neurological disorders) where it is important—and possibly lifesaving—to get a second opinion.
If you’ve received a diagnosis based upon tests that are open to interpretation, or you have been given treatment options that are invasive, long-term or involve medicine with strong side effects, get a second opinion now.
How to Get a Second Opinion
Your second opinion should be from a specialist who is independent from your doctor. Don’t worry about offending your doctor; he or she will understand that it is in your best interest to get a fresh perspective.
Other courses of action to follow include:
For more information, check out: the National Cancer Institute, the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Center for the Advancement of Health.
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