After you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and your doctor has outlined your treatment, you may still have a nagging doubt: what if my doctor is wrong? No matter how much you like or trust your oncologist, it’s natural to wonder if something was missed or if a new treatment is available. If you have any doubts, get a second opinion.
Getting a second opinion is increasingly common, experts say. “In the past, people with cancer were often anxious about asking for a second opinion,” says Terri Ades, MS, APRN-BC, AOCN, director of cancer information at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. “But today, they’re much more comfortable.” And you should be comfortable. This is your medical care and your life. Getting a second opinion is your right as a patient.
Family caregivers may be spouses, partners, children, relatives, or friends who help the patient with activities of daily living and health care needs at home.
Many cancer patients today receive part of their care at home. Hospital stays are shorter than they used to be, and there are now more treatments that don't need an overnight hospital stay or can be given outside of the hospital. People with cancer are living longer and many patients want to be cared for at home as much as possible. This...
Besides, with something as serious as cancer, having the input of another expert makes sense. When you’re shopping for a new car, you don’t buy from the first salesman you meet. You shop around. And if you’re willing to make that effort with a car, shouldn’t you be at least as careful in deciding on your cancer treatment?
Experts say that doctors should never try to prevent you from getting a second opinion -- instead, they should encourage it.
“Doctors want patients and their families to feel comfortable with their treatment,” says Harold J. Burstein, MD, a staff oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Second opinions are often really helpful because they offer reassurance.”
So what do you need to know about getting a second opinion? WebMD asked the experts.
Why Get a Second Opinion?
What are the benefits of getting a second opinion? Jan C. Buckner, MD, chair of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., gives part of the answer: “Not everybody is right every time,” he tells WebMD. He has seen cases in which a second opinion changed the treatment, prognosis, and even diagnosis.
But while there’s always a chance that a second opinion will completely alter your treatment, experts say that such cases are in the minority.