How a Second Opinion Can Help You With a Difficult Diagnosis

10 questions to ask when you seek another opinion
How a Second Opinion Can Help You With a Difficult Diagnosis

In recent entertainment news, celebrities have talked about the importance of seeking a second medical opinion when you face a serious medical diagnosis. A second opinion allows you to determine if the diagnosis is correct, and it helps you determine if the recommended treatment is optimal for you. If a person is diagnosed with cancer, the treatment plans will differ depending on the specific nature of the cancer cells.

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Usually, the opinion that a second physician provides will agree with the diagnosis and treatment identified by your physician. This can offer reassurance as it gives you confidence about the choices you are making about your health.

“In addition to the clinical issues, a second opinion on a pathology reading can also change your diagnosis, and ultimately your treatment plan,” says Jonathan Schaffer, MD, MBA.

“The peace of mind that a second opinion can provide is priceless, especially when you or a member of your family is facing a difficult medical journey,” say Dr. Schaffer.

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Where should you seek a second opinion?

“I recommend a second opinion from a healthcare institution with significant expertise in the clinical area in which you have a diagnosis,” says Dr. Schaffer.

For cases that involve pathology specimens, the pathologist should also be sub-specialized and have significant expertise as well. “This means that they look at the same types of cells all day, every day, instead of reviewing pathology for many different types of diagnoses,” he says.

When you seek a second opinion, whether in person or online, Dr. Schaffer recommends that you prepare your questions in advance. This will ensure that you obtain all of the knowledge you need to guide you in your treatment decisions.

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Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask during your second opinion:

  1. Is my diagnosis correct?
  2. Is the treatment plan optimal for my individual situation?
  3. Which treatment plan is the best for me?
  4. Do alternative treatments exist for this diagnosis?
  5. Am I able to safely delay surgery?
  6. Are there other medications available that may benefit me?
  7. How will my other health issues affect the treatment for this diagnosis?
  8. What complications am I at risk for with the proposed treatment plan?
  9. Are there clinical trials available for this diagnosis?
  10. What is my prognosis?

Adds Dr. Schaffer, “As a patient, it is your right to ask for a second opinion. From a physician’s perspective, when your health — and perhaps even your life — is at stake, we want to make sure you are making the most informed healthcare decision.”

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