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Seeking a second opinion

Though most doctors’ visits are routine, they sometimes uncover a serious sign—a spot on an X-ray, for instance, or an abnormal result from a blood test—that may have a variety of causes and treatments.

Your doctor, of course, will thoroughly discuss his or her findings and recommend a course of action. But when your diagnosis is complex and you want to make a well-informed decision on how to proceed, getting a second opinion from another doctor can be a wise move.

Don’t worry about upsetting your physician. On the contrary, he or she should welcome your decision and will probably help you find a qualified referral. That’s because doctors often benefit from one another’s medical knowledge—making for better patient care.

When to be opinionated

When should you consider getting a second opinion?

  • when your health insurance requires it
  • if you’re told you only have one option (for example, surgery) or if you must choose one of several options
  • in cases of a very rare disorder
  • if you’re told that nothing more can be done for you
  • in cases where experimental treatment may help (but never to replace conventional care if it’s still available)

Making every second count

Also, experts suggest these helpful hints:

  • Seek a second opinion from a doctor who’s not in the same medical practice as your primary doctor.
  • Research your condition in peer-reviewed journals at the library or at government or hospital-based Internet sites before the consultation.
  • Prepare a list of questions based on your research to get the most from your consultation.

Expect one of two outcomes: If the second opinion confirms the first, you’ll feel reassured that the recommended therapy is your best bet. However, if there’s a difference of opinion, choose the course that seems to make the most sense to you, based on what you know. After all, your opinion counts, too!