Getting a Second Opinion
Once you receive your doctor's opinion about the diagnosis and treatment plan, you may want to get another doctor's advice before you begin treatment. This is known as getting a second opinion. You can do this by asking another specialist to review all of the materials related to your case. A second opinion can confirm or suggest modifications to your doctor's proposed treatment plan, provide reassurance that you have explored all of your options, and answer any questions you may have.
Getting a second opinion is done frequently, and most physicians welcome another doctor's views. In fact, your doctor may be able to recommend a specialist for this consultation. However, some people find it uncomfortable to request a second opinion. When discussing this issue with your doctor, it may be helpful to express satisfaction with your doctor's decision and care and to mention that you want your decision about treatment to be as thoroughly informed as possible. You may also wish to bring a family member along for support when asking for a second opinion. It is best to involve your doctor in the process of getting a second opinion, because your doctor will need to make your medical records (such as your test results and x-rays) available to the specialist.
Some health care plans require a second opinion, particularly if a doctor recommends surgery. Other health care plans will pay for a second opinion if the patient requests it. If your plan does not cover a second opinion, you can still obtain one if you are willing to cover the cost.
If your doctor is unable to recommend a specialist for a second opinion, or if you prefer to choose one on your own, the following resources can help:
- Your local hospital or its patient referral service may be able to provide you with a list of specialists who practice at that hospital.
Your nearest National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center can provide information about doctors who practice at that center.
- The NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, is the research hospital for the NIH, including NCI. Several branches of the NCI provide second opinion services. The NCI fact sheet Cancer Clinical Trials at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center: Questions and Answers describes these NCI branches and their services.
- The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has a list of doctors who have met certain education and training requirements and have passed specialty examinations. Is Your Doctor Certified? lists doctorsí names along with their specialty and their educational background. The directory is available in most libraries and online. You must register to use this online self-serve resource, which allows you to conduct searches by a physician's name or area of certification and a state name.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provides an online list of doctors who are members of ASCO. The member database has the names and affiliations of over 27,000 oncologists worldwide. It can be searched by doctor's name, institution, location and/or type of board certification. (click on "Find an Oncologist").
- The American Medical Association (AMA) DoctorFinder database provides basic information on licensed physicians in the United States. Users can search for physicians by name or by medical specialty.
- Local medical societies may maintain lists of doctors in each specialty.
- Public and medical libraries may have print directories of doctors' names listed geographically by specialty.
- Your local Yellow Pages or Yellow Book may have doctors listed by specialty under "Physicians."
- The R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, Inc. can refer cancer patients to institutions that are willing to provide multidisciplinary second opinions. You can also contact the R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, Inc. by telephone at 816-854-5050 (816-WE-BUILD) or 1-800-433-0464.