Early Stage Breast Cancer: Making Treatment Decisions
Making Treatment Decisions After a Cancer Diagnosis
How can I get another doctor’s opinion about the diagnosis and treatment plan?
After your doctor gives you advice about the diagnosis and treatment plan, you may want to get another doctor’s opinion 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. The doctor who gives the 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 who is giving the second opinion.
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:
- Many of the resources listed above for finding a doctor can also help you find a specialist for a consultation.
- 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 sheetCancer Clinical Trials at the NIH Clinical Centerdescribes these NCI branches and their services.
- The R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, Inc., can refer cancer patients to institutions that are willing to provide multidisciplinary second opinions.
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