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Getting a Second Opinion on Cancer Treatment

Man talking to healthcare provider.

It can be hard to decide which cancer treatment plan is best for you. You may want to get a second opinion. This means having another doctor review your diagnosis and treatment options.

Why get a second opinion?

It's vital that you feel good about your treatment choices. A second opinion can help you make your decision and feel good about it.

When doctors plan cancer treatments, they consider:

  • The type and stage of the cancer

  • How likely the cancer can be cured

  • How the treatment will affect your daily life

  • Your overall health

  • Your personal preferences

A second doctor can review all of these factors. He or she can help you make sure of your decisions. A second opinion can:

  • Confirm your diagnosis

  • Allow you to see a specialist who treats the kind of cancer you have

  • Give you different treatment options

  • Help you find a doctor or treatment center you like

  • Help you feel confident that the plan you're thinking about is the best treatment to get

Is it a problem to get a second opinion?

Many health insurers will pay for a second opinion. And in most cases, a short delay in treatment won't reduce the chance that it will work.

Don't worry about hurting your doctor's feelings by asking for a second opinion. It's a common request when it comes to cancer care. And your doctor might be able to advise another doctor you should see.

How to get a second opinion

You have a number of ways to find a doctor who can give a second opinion. These include:

  • Your primary care doctor. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist. This may be a surgeon. Or it may be a medical or radiation oncologist. These doctors often work together at cancer centers and hospitals.

  • Your cancer specialist. He or she may be able to refer you to another specialist.

  • NCI Contact Center. This is a service of the National Cancer Institute. They can help you find cancer treatment centers near you. You can contact them at 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237), or at their website.

  • Commission on Cancer. This is a program from the American College of Surgeons. They approve medical centers and hospitals that provide the best cancer care. You can search for an approved medical center .

  • American Medical Association (AMA). This group has an online DoctorFinder service. The AMA also has a directory of the medical groups in each state. This can help you to find doctors in your state.

Other good options for a second opinion include:

  • Your health insurance

  • A local hospital or medical school

  • A local cancer advocacy group

  • Other people who have had cancer

  • Friends and family

Talk with your healthcare provider to find local resources like these.

Getting a second opinion can take time and effort. Most people find that it's worth it. It eases uncertainty and helps you have peace of mind about the next steps in your cancer care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2020
© 2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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