4 Times You Should Seek a Second Opinion
Last updated: March 2021
It is never easy to receive the news that you have a medical condition that will change your life as you know it. No matter if that condition is a stage one illness that can be treated and cured quickly or is a condition that will be with you for your entire life, it is more than normal to feel very confused and totally overwhelmed.
Making these big decisions can be very hard especially when there are several treatment options laid out in front of you and it is your job to make the best decision for your body. So what do you do? What is the next step?
Second opinion for peace of mind
For many, the next logical step is to get a second opinion. Even if that second opinion agrees with and confirms what the first provider said, it can still be helpful if for no reason other than to give you peace in your diagnosis and treatment plan.
Once you have gotten a second opinion, you can be content in the fact that you did everything you could to make sure that the diagnosis was correct as well as ensuring that the treatment plan is one you feel comfortable with. By getting a second opinion you are doing what you can to make sure that you are a well-informed and educated patient.
Sadly, many people also get a second opinion because they do not believe their provider. This totally fair because medical mistakes happen. In fact, a study done by the Mayo Clinic found that around 88% of patients who sought out a second opinion left the office with a new or refined diagnosis while 21% left the office with a “distinctly different” diagnosis. Astoundingly this study discovered that of the 286 patients studied only 12 percent of patients learned that their original diagnosis was correct!1
Reasons for a second opinion
Lack of improvement
If you have completed the prescribed treatment and have seen little to no improvement it is likely time to look for different treatment options or even a second opinion. No one knows your body as well as you do. If you feel that something needs to change in order for you to feel better, make it happen.
Sadly, people are often scared to advocate for themselves and don’t want to offend their current doctor or they assume that what they are feeling is the new normal for them. If you feel that you need to try something else or see a different doctor, DO IT! The only way you are going to get better is by standing up for yourself and ensuring you have gotten the right diagnosis.Risky treatment options If the treatment for your condition is highly risky, requires any invasive procedures, or has lifelong consequences it's wise to seek a second opinion. As a general rule of thumb, it is never a good idea to agree to any surgery or invasive procedure without exploring all the available treatment options. However, some fear that if they decline the treatment or want to see another provider first that they will make their provider upset. This should be the last thing on your mind. The only thing you should be focusing on is getting better. If that includes getting a second opinion or trying another treatment option first, that is perfectly okay.Cancer diagnosisA diagnosis of something as serious as cancer is scary and can be quite overwhelming. It is hard to know who to listen to and where to turn. As with any life-altering condition, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to be informed. Not only about the condition itself, but also about any surgery or treatment options. It is essential for your optimal recovery that you are as informed as you can be. Seeing a physician who specializes in your kind of cancer is very important. However, it is also important to remember that no single physician will ever be 100% up to date on the newest research. That is why making sure you are informed and that you advocate for yourself is so important. The more opinions you get, the higher the likelihood that you will be able to make the best decisions on who should be your provider and what treatment plans you ought to follow.Rare condition diagnosisEven in a time of such growth in medical research, there are conditions that are so rare that they have very little research done and/or published on them. If you happen to be diagnosed with one of those conditions, it is imperative that you get a second opinion and see someone who specializes in that condition. It is likely that the doctor who diagnosed you may have only seen a handful of cases or less in their career. If that is the case, they should not be the ones to set up a treatment plan for you. That being said, if you are diagnosed with something rare, it is important to remember that you are not alone. It has been said that approximately 25-30 million Americans have been diagnosed with a “rare disease.”2Your own best advocateIt is so important that we take the time to do the research and familiarize ourselves with information on any condition we are diagnosed with. We need to know as much as we can about the condition itself as well as any available treatment options. Being proactive and taking the time to research your health conditions and physicians gives you greater control over your treatment and well-being. You are never being hard to get along with or a difficult patient if you request a second opinion before making any big decisions about your health. Also, if you ever have a provider make you feel bad for getting a second opinion, it is time for you to find another doctor. No one can or will ever be able to advocate for you like you can!
Besides heart failure, do you have any other chronic medical conditions?
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