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Getting a Second Opinion When Your Child Has Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 20, 2020

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, decisions about treatment and care can seem overwhelming. One way to make sure you know all your options is to get a second opinion from another doctor. Many people do this, and most doctors are comfortable with it.

When to Get a Second Opinion

You can seek a second (or third, or more) opinion for any reason. Some common reasons are:

  • You want to confirm your child’s diagnosis is correct.
  • You want to know every possible choice for treatment.
  • Your child has a rare or unusual type of cancer.
  • You think another treatment might be available.
  • You think another doctor or hospital may know more about the type of cancer your child has.
  • You’re having trouble talking with your child’s doctor, or you want someone else to explain your options.
  • Your insurance company asks you to get another opinion before your child starts treatment.

How to Ask for a Second Opinion

It's a good idea to tell your child’s current cancer doctor before you ask for a second opinion. Sometimes, a new doctor won’t see you until you've had that conversation. Keep in mind that many doctors welcome the idea of a second opinion. Some even suggest it themselves.

If you need help with how to start, here are some things you could say:

  • "I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. Can you recommend someone?"
  • "Before my child starts treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Will you help me with that?"
  • "If you had a child with the same type of cancer as my child, is there another doctor you'd see for a second opinion?"
  • "I think I’d like to talk with another doctor to be sure I’ve done everything there is to help my child."

Do Some Homework

  • Ask your health insurance company if your plan will pay for a second opinion, whether it’s in person or online.
  • If your child’s doctor didn't recommend another specialist, ask your insurance company to recommend one. Or search for a pediatric cancer center on the Children’s Oncology Group website.
  • Ask your child’s doctor’s office or the medical records department of their cancer center for copies of their records. Sometimes you can get them from an online patient portal.

What to Give the New Doctor

Pull together as much information as you can to help the new doctor make the best recommendation for your child’s care:

  • Your child’s age, address, parent or guardian contact information, and insurance information
  • Name and contact information of their current doctor
  • Your child’s symptoms and diagnosis
  • Any X-ray, CT, MRI, or other scans, including any biopsy slides or tissue blocks
  • A copy of any laboratory or pathology reports from any biopsy or surgery
  • A summary of your child’s current treatment plan
  • A list of all of their drugs, the doses, and when they take them

After the Second Opinion

If the second doctor agrees with the first, you can feel more confident that this is the best treatment plan for your child. If the second opinion is different, here are some things you can do next:

  • Make an appointment with the first doctor to talk about the second opinion.
  • Ask both doctors to explain how they arrived at their treatment plans.
  • Ask them how they interpreted your child’s test results.
  • Ask what they've recommended to other parents in your same situation.
  • Ask if it's possible for the two doctors to review your child’s case together.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "Second Opinions for Pediatric Cancer Patients: What to Know."

American Cancer Society: "Pediatric Cancer Center Information," "Seeking a Second Opinion."

Children’s Oncology Group: "For Patients and Families."

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: "Pediatric Cancer Second Opinions."

Cancer.Net: "Seeking a Second Opinion."

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