A second opinion for cancer can save your life. This is how you ask for it.

Asking for a second opinion from a doctor can be intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. There may be several factors that refrain you from doing so, such as: the fear of seeming demanding, of being impolite by not granting him/her full confidence, feeling scared and wanting to commence treatment as soon as possible, not wanting to go through the hassle of finding another experienced doctor. Although these might feel legitimate to you, we believe that the reasons you should proceed with asking for a second opinion from a doctor, especially in the case of a life-threatening or serious disease, are much more compelling:

  • if you feel your doctor isn’t really listening to you or was hasted in making a decision;
  • if the treatment proposed is especially risky or toxic;
  • if you feel you’re being rushed inexplicably into making a decision;
  • if the procedure that is recommended involves the use of experimental instruments or devices;
  • if the recovery process for the initial procedure is especially long;
  • if you feel like your doctor isn’t interested in your case;
  • if he explains your disease using only medical terms which you don’t fully understand and refuses to be more explanatory;
  • if you’re in line for receiving experimental or trial drugs;
  • if the medical analysis or diagnosis isn’t 100% clear or accurate;
  • if the FDA hasn’t established a consensus or an approved treatment for your disease.

Doctor David B. Samadi says: “As a rule of thumb with most diagnosis, it’s always recommended to seek out a second opinion. This is especially true when you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, specifically before you have decided on a course of treatment. Seeking a second opinion is an invaluable way for a patient to verify certain facts about prostate cancer, such as the stage of cancer or location of the cancerous growth. Patients generally look for a second opinion because they feel an inability to communicate effectively with their current doctor. Some patients are also confused as to what is the best treatment and course of action for their scenario.”

If you decide on getting a second opinion, make sure to write down any question you want to ask or that you feel weren’t answered in your initial consultation. Regardless of your choice, just be sure not to take too long for deciding. While your disease can be slow growing, in most cases you don’t want to delay any treatment you may require, to prevent future  complications.

What’s the best way to ask doctors for a second opinion?

Even tough it might seem awkward, you should tell your first doctor you intend on looking for a second opinion. Doctors don’t need to feel threatened by this and they should encourage you to follow all the steps that might make you feel more comfortable with your diagnosis. A doctor who doesn’t support your need for a second opinion will lose your confidence. Telling him/her that you are interested in looking for a different opinion is an act of exercising your right to be in control of your body and your treatment and the first step in building a relationship with your doctor, based on respect, honesty and trust.

How to reach out for a second opinion?

One of the easiest ways of finding a new doctor is asking your current one for a referral. Most physicians located in the same area know each other from university, conferences or other sorts of gatherings, so they should have a broad reach in the field. However, if for some reason he/she refuses to provide some referrals, there are multiple sites you can access in order to find reputable experts in your ailment, near your location.

It is preferable that your first doctor will be on board with you asking for a 2nd opinion for one simple reason: you need to provide medical records from the moment you started making appointments to your first doctor, all test results, scans, treatments and medication you might have taken up until that moment. Cooperating with your first doctor will make it a lot easier for you to have access to these.

How should you approach the doctor giving the second opinion?

As in the case of the first doctor, honesty is at the essence. Being fair with your doctor, letting him know what your first diagnosis was and the specific steps you had to go through up until that moment, will be very useful and will save you a lot of time. Just be frank: “These are my test results, I have been diagnosed with X and given this medication. What is your opinion about this course of action?”.

Key to the conversation is trying to be as objective as possible when presenting your case: exhibit the battery of tests you’ve taken until then, all your medical history and your current diagnosis and treatment, without expressing doubt or overconfidence in your initial physician, or your expectancy to hear a certain answer. This way, his judgement won’t be influenced by the first opinion and he’ll be able to decide unbiased what will the next steps for uncovering your diagnosis be.

Find out if your insurance covers second opinions

Insurance companies handle second opinions in different manners. Before deciding who you should get a second opinion from, find out who your plan covers in terms of medical professionals and institutions you can approach free of charge. You may have to advocate for yourself quite loudly if there are better opportunities for your treatment at other facilities, outside your healthcare network.


Doctors are human too and sometimes they can make mistakes. You don’t want to go through with excessively long treatment or invasive surgery if you’re not 100% sure it’s the right way to go. Better safe than sorry!

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