Skip to content

    Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Cancer: When Do You Need a Second Opinion, and Why?

    Getting a second opinion is your right as a cancer patient.
    By
    WebMD Feature

    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.

    Recommended Related to Cancer

    What is screening?

    Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread. Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened...

    Read the What is screening? article > >

    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.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Real Cancer Perspectives
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article