Many people hesitate to get a second opinion because they don’t want to offend their doctor. But any good, caring physician should welcome a second opinion. If she doesn’t, you may need to get another physician. Your loyalty should be to your health and not to your doctor
Seeking a second opinion doesn’t mean you don’t trust your doctor or that you don’t think they know what they’re talking about. In the medical field, test results may be interpreted differently by different physicians. And for many health conditions there are a number of treatment options. Sometimes it’s crystal clear to everyone what should be done…and sometimes it’s not.
When Should You Get a Second Opinion?
There are certain conditions that call for multiple medical opinions. For example, anytime you’re thinking about having a procedure in which there is a higher risk of dying, having a stroke, or getting a life-threatening infection, you want to get more than one physician’s advice. Here are a few examples of when a second opinion might be useful…
In the case of heart disease, sometimes bypass surgery is clearly the best choice, but there are other treatment options like angioplasty and medications alone. And a recent study showed that when it comes to women, invasive procedures might not be as beneficial as they are in men and may be associated with a higher mortality. So before you sign up for the OR, get a second opinion so you’re sure.
Breast Cancer Treatment
There are so many more treatment options for breast cancer than there were 20 years ago. We’re always learning more about the different types of breast cancer and which ones respond to various therapies. There are a variety of chemotherapy cocktails that are being used as well as surgical options. Should you have a mastectomy? Should you have a lumpectomy? If you’ve had cancer on one side, should you consider removing the other breast as a precaution? So before you commit to one plan of attack, discuss your situation with at least two oncologists before making up your mind.
Another health issue where getting more than one opinion is commonplace is infertility. As women continue to prolong childbearing into their 30s and even 40s, more and more of us are having trouble conceiving. So the demand for fertility treatments is high. Fortunately, there are many treatment options out there for couples that are having problems. Pills, injections, artificial insemination, IVF. Depending on your particular problems, there can be several ways to go. And there are complimentary therapies that may have some benefit, like acupuncture. So talk to your primary care physician first about how to proceed and then consider seeking the advice of one or two fertility specialists before you decide what to do.
And if you’re considering a hysterectomy, consider seeking the advice of more than one physician because once a woman’s uterus is removed, she can no longer get pregnant. There are times when it’s pretty obvious that a woman needs to have a hysterectomy…for example if she has cancer of the uterus. But there are other cases when it might not be so black and white. For example, if a woman has bad uterine fibroids. If a woman is still of childbearing age and may want to conceive in the future, there may be other options to try before doing something that drastic. So if a doctor recommends a hysterectomy with or without the removal of your ovaries, get a second opinion to make sure it’s the right decision for you.
Plastic surgery is usually an elective procedure to make us look better and feel better about ourselves. And we’ve all heard of botched facelifts, liposuction, or tummy tucks. So before you sign up for a major overhaul of your face or breasts, talk to several doctors and find the one who you think has the most experience and is the most competent. It would be such a shame to end up sick or disfigured after having unnecessary surgery.
How Do You Decide Whose Advice to Follow?
Let’s say you’ve spoken to two specialists and they disagree. You may want to talk to your primary care physician to see what he or she thinks about the options on the table. They may recommend a third opinion which not uncommon. And of you course, you can ask your family, friends, or other people who have been in a similar situation to see how they feel. Gather as much information as you can before you make a decision that could change your life.
Back to Headlines