Living with cancer blog

Tips for seeking second opinion on cancer care

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. October 12, 2013

Cancer can be complicated to diagnose and manage. Getting a second opinion helps you feel more confident about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Let's discuss the best way to seek a second opinion.

There are many reasons why you want to seek another opinion during the course of your cancer care — maybe you don't feel confident in your current doctor's ability to treat your cancer, or you have a rare or unusual cancer type, or your cancer isn't responding to the current treatment.

A second opinion sheds new light on treatment options and gives you confidence on how to proceed with your care. You could begin by mentioning to your current doctor that you're interested in seeking a second opinion. Outline your reasons why and be clear about what you need. Many times, they're happy to recommend someone. If your current doctor is at a loss for what to do next in your treatment, they should be recommending this automatically.

You can also seek out a second opinion on your own. This is your choice — so don't feel bad about looking for additional support in feeling confident about your care.

When seeking a second opinion, keep these things in mind:

  • If you don't have a provider recommendation — look for NCI-Designated Cancer Centers that deliver high quality care and have research programs that support development of new treatments (resource — www.cancer.gov/researchandfunding/extramural/cancercenters/find-a-cancer-center).
  • Check with your insurance provider to determine coverage — especially if the visit is out of your network. Also, check to see that the new cancer specialist accepts your insurance type.
  • When you call to schedule the appointment — find out if they have a specialist with experience treating your cancer type.
  • Plan to bring your medical records — including copies of all scans, exams, previous treatment, blood tests and pathology slides with you to the appointment.
  • Be clear what you're looking for from the second opinion — do you need confirmation that your current treatment recommendation is correct for you? Or, are you looking for other options? Are you interested in clinical trials?
  • As you work with the new cancer specialist — explain why you're seeking a second opinion and communicate your primary needs for the visit.
  • Consider your plan for next steps — do you need to transfer your care to receive the new treatment options? Or, can the treatment plan be communicated to your original doctor for care?

For most, a second opinion gives you extra confidence that you're doing the best thing. However, if you do choose to transfer your care to another doctor, make sure that you communicate this to your original doctor.

What's most important is that you're confident with your treatment options. If you feel the need for extra clarity and assurance, don't be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Have you asked for a second opinion? What was your experience?

Follow me on Twitter at @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

7 Comments Posted

Oct. 12, 2013