Every day, somebody will receive a diagnosis of a life-altering, serious health condition. Hearing “you have…” can be scary and unsettling, feeling like your world has stopped. For some, such news may be expected. For others, it will be entirely out of the blue. Either way, hearing about a medical condition threatening your overall health and well-being usually requires a second opinion from another doctor.
Maybe you want it treated immediately, but you’ve likely had the disease for months, if not years. Waiting a couple more weeks to go through the proper channels to find the right treatment for you is incredibly important. Keep in mind that fast medicine can also turn into bad medicine.
Doctors are human and, like all of us, can and do make mistakes. Doctors also have different ideas of how they approach certain diseases in treating them. Some doctors are more conservative, while others are more aggressive. Therefore, their opinions and recommendations can vary dramatically. It’s essential to get another set of eyes to review your lab work, scans, and x-rays and get their understanding of your health condition and what their recommendation is on how to move forward.
Seeking out a second opinion is a good idea for several reasons:
- To make sure your diagnosis is correct
- To find out more information on your condition
- To allow you to talk to a doctor with expertise in your medical condition
- To explore other treatment options
When should you get a second opinion?
Getting a second opinion is not required for all health concerns, but there are times when getting that second opinion can be the best thing you did. What if you get a second opinion and the second doctor’s findings differ vastly from the first? It may be time to get a third opinion. Second opinions are not always the right ones to choose. Keep digging until the treatment and diagnosis make sense to you.
Here is a listing of reasons when a second opinion can be a valuable tool in your healthcare decisions:
1. If you have had treatment for your condition, but your symptoms have not gone away
You are the expert on your bodies. You know how you feel, and when symptoms that were supposed to be alleviated with treatment are still present, it may be time to seek out another person’s opinion. You do not have to live with chronic pain or uncomfortable feelings that have not been helped. Advocate for yourself and keep searching for doctors who listen and are open to trying new methods of treatment.
2. If you are diagnosed with a rare disease or condition
One of the most frustrating and frightening things is to be diagnosed with a rare disease with little scientific research. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans is diagnosed with a rare disease. With almost 7,000 known rare diseases or disorders and more that get discovered each year, information on how best to treat them is limited. This makes it imperative to get a second opinion. There could be a chance you were misdiagnosed. If the diagnosis is confirmed as having a rare condition, search out doctors and specialists well-versed with your disorder and get their opinion on how to treat it.
3. If you are being recommended to have surgery or the treatment is risky with possible lifelong consequences
Always explore your options before candidly agreeing to surgery or other invasive procedures. Remember, you have a say in what treatments you consent to or not, it’s your body, your choice. Decide to seek that second opinion in order to gather as much information as possible. Being proactive and not passive will give you greater degree of control over how you are treated in the end.
4. If you are diagnosed with cancer
Cancer is a serious diagnosis and should always require a second opinion. At the time of diagnosis, you are likely confused and overwhelmed by this life-changing event. Being as informed as possible about your prognosis and available treatment options is important. Again, advocate for yourself. Tell the doctor who diagnosed you that you want a second opinion. Many oncologists specialize in specific types of cancer, making them experts in those diseases. They can be of invaluable help and advice on steering you in the right direction on how you should execute the course of your treatment.
In addition, some insurance providers require a second opinion when it comes to a cancer diagnosis.
5. If you feel uncomfortable with a diagnosis
Listen to your instincts. Get a second opinion if your gut is telling you something doesn’t seem right with a diagnosis. Never agree to a treatment or procedure when something seems off. Again, trust your instincts and get more information. Discuss your concerns with a new doctor, read up on or talk to others who’ve had your condition. Ask many questions on everything from prescription medications to what possible new treatments are being developed.
Remember, most of us do not have to make major healthcare decisions immediately. Instead, take some time to gather your information, research your conditions, and search out that second opinion empowering you to feel confident about your diagnosis and treatment plan.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.