Biliary tract cancer: Should I get a second opinion?

If you've been diagnosed with biliary tract cancer, it's important to consider seeking a second opinion since biliary tract cancer is an uncommon type of cancer. A second opinion is when you ask another biliary tract cancer specialist to look at your case. This specialist then gives you an opinion about your diagnosis and treatment options.

A second opinion may be the same as your original diagnosis and treatment plan. This can give you peace of mind. A second opinion also may provide more details about your biliary tract cancer and other treatment options for you to consider.

Why should I get a second opinion?

There are many reasons to get a second opinion. A new cancer diagnosis is reason enough. With biliary tract cancer, treatment options vary depending on factors like size and location of the cancer and if it has spread. Having a team that is used to treating this type of cancer is important. You want to be sure you're getting the best care possible.

If you have multiple treatment options, a second opinion can help you choose which are best for you. A second opinion also can help if your health care provider is uncertain about your diagnosis or treatment plan. Plus, some insurance companies require you receive a second opinion before treatment begins.

When should I get a second opinion?

After a biliary tract cancer diagnosis, it's common to feel uneasy and want to start treatment immediately. However, it's important to make sure your treatment plan is best for you. This might mean getting a second opinion before treatment begins.

It can take some time to get a second opinion. In most cases, it's OK to not start treatment right away. But always talk with your health care provider first to determine how long you can delay treatment. Even if you've started treatment, it's not too late to get a second opinion.

How do I get a second opinion?

Start by asking your health care provider. Providers are used to patients asking for a second opinion. Most providers welcome the input of another expert to make sure you get the most effective care.

You may want to find a biliary tract cancer specialist who works as part of a team that includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists. Make sure all your records are sent to the provider offering a second opinion. You also should bring copies of those records with you in case something becomes misplaced. Also, be sure to check whether your insurance will cover the expense.

If the second opinion is similar to the first, other cancer specialists will probably give you the same opinion. Don't waste your time by seeing several different providers who may all tell you the same thing.

You may not want to get a second opinion, and that's OK. If you are confident in your provider's judgement, have researched your cancer and are comfortable with your treatment plan, then you may decide to forgo a second opinion. Working with your health care provider, family members or friends can help you decide what is best.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

March 24, 2023 See more Expert Answers