Getting a Second Opinion About Your Cancer Diagnosis

When you’re faced with a decision such as where to receive cancer treatment and what treatment plan to follow, you want to be confident in your decision and comfortable with the cancer specialists who will be taking care of you and your family throughout this experience. Receiving a second opinion can be an important part of the process for you and your family to reach a decision, confirming a diagnosis, and/or being educated about your cancer and treatment options.

Taking the extra time to see another cancer treatment specialist will allow you to determine if there are other options that perhaps the first oncologist didn’t suggest. With so many advances in cancer treatments and technologies, including clinical research trials that may be available, some cancer centers may have a slightly different approach to treating your specific type of cancer. You will discuss your diagnosis and the treatment plan that was recommended to determine whether there are other treatment options that can be considered.

What is a second opinion?

A second opinion is a way for you to take your existing medical records to a second physician for review and get their feedback and suggestions. It is an important part of becoming educated about your cancer and your treatment options. There are many resources online that you can use to do further research about your type of cancer and potential treatments but seeing a professional oncologist to get a second opinion is the most valuable way to assess and understand your diagnosis and treatment options.

Why do I need a second opinion?

Being diagnosed with any serious illness can be a stressful time but a cancer diagnosis. It can be difficult to organize your thoughts clearly with the many feelings that come with a diagnosis including confusion, fear, and uncertainty. This is just one reason we feel it is vital to get a second opinion but there are many reasons for you to do so. Other reasons to get a second opinion from a cancer specialist include:

Peace of Mind

Seeing a second oncologist to confirm your diagnosis and discuss their best recommendation for treatment options can ease your mind about making the decision that is best for you. Imagine shopping for a big-ticket item like the latest in technology or a new vehicle. Likely, you would shop around before finally deciding on which product to purchase and from where. You would probably do your research, ask questions, and find information before purchasing.

The same applies to getting a second opinion when it comes to a cancer diagnosis. Having a clear, concise, and verified diagnosis can help you to understand more about your type of cancer and different ways to treat it and make you feel more empowered when it comes to making the treatment decisions you need to make.

Different Perspectives

It is important for physicians to be honest about your diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis but what is true from one physician's perspective may be different from another's. While there are often standards of care that can be relied upon for many cancer diagnoses, it's always necessary to also consider other options, including which treatments the oncologist feels are most likely to be successful. One oncologist may have a slightly different recommendation based on his/her experiences and areas of clinical focus.

Access to Clinical Trials

Science and medicine are always coming up with new and advanced treatment options for cancer and many other illnesses, and the availability of clinical trials for cancer vary by the practice where you receive treatment in the Phoenix area. A trial that may be a good fit for your diagnoses and stage may be available at one practice that is not available at another. Ask the oncologist about clinical trials at their practice and whether they feel a trial might be an option for you.

Uncomfortable With Your First Physician

Being comfortable with and feeling confident in your oncologist is an important part of your treatment. Because a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, it is important to have not only a knowledgeable, experienced oncologist to help you through the experience but also someone who is compassionate and communicates well with you and your family members. You should not feel rushed or as though they’re talking over your head with terms you don’t understand. If you feel that way, ask them to slow down and explain everything in simpler terms to see if they would be able to communicate well with you in the future.

Who pays for a second opinion?

Usually, your insurance will cover a second opinion and some insurance plans actually insist on getting one. If you're not sure, contact your insurance company and they will let you know.

What to expect during a second opinion appointment

Be sure to bring the following items with you. During a second opinion appointment the oncologist will most likely want to review:

  • Your medical records that include the diagnosis and stage
  • Most recent blood test results
  • Any images such as CTs, MRIs or PET Scans on discs
  • Biopsy results
  • The treatment plan that's been recommended

If there is anything else needed, the physician will let you know.

Based on the information that's available, the oncologist/hematologist will tell you if they agree with the diagnosis and recommended treatment plan or, if there is something else that they suggest based on their experience, available treatment technologies, research, publications they've read and/or results they have experienced with other people.

In most cases, the second opinion gives patients the confidence they need to start a treatment program. If you feel more comfortable with one particular cancer care team and their treatment setting over another, we recommend you go there. If you choose the second doctor, it is courteous to tell the first doctor what you've decided by calling the office and telling the front desk staff of your decision.

Is it insulting to get a second opinion?

Second opinions should not offend competent physicians, and you should not be worried that one of the doctors will be upset if you do not choose them. At Arizona Oncology, our cancer specialists, nurses and support staff want you to seek treatment where you're most comfortable. A second opinion appointment can play an important part in making that decision.

When you're faced with a decision such as where to receive cancer treatment and what treatment plan to follow, you want to be confident in your decision and comfortable with the cancer specialists who will be taking care of you and your family throughout this experience. A second opinion can be important in confirming a diagnosis and/or being educated about your cancer and treatment options. There are many advances in technology, clinical trials, and treatment options. You want to be comfortable with the plan your physician presents to you and a second opinion can assist you with that.

We invite you to contact us today to schedule an appointment so we can assist you and your loved ones in learning more about your diagnosis as well as additional treatment options and powerful support services.

Our patient schedulers can help determine which physician is best for you. Requests for particular physicians can be accommodated in most situations.