When faced with a new diagnosis — especially something potentially Earth-shattering like a cancer diagnosis — patients want to be sure they have the right information and the best treatment plan possible. When facing the uncertain world of medicine, knowledge gives people peace of mind.
One option to gain this coveted peace of mind is to get a second opinion from a specialist or doctor who is willing to look at your test results. Here’s what to look for in a second opinion so this additional consultation is valuable for your time and theirs.
Seek out a specialist in the field.
Oftentimes, doctors will recommend getting a second opinion if they aren’t sure about a diagnosis and know an expert who will immediately know the answer. For example, if your general practitioner noticing an unusual mole or follows a pattern of specific symptoms, they may send you to an oncologist to see if you have cancer.
This second doctor will be much more confident in evaluating the state of your health, which means they are less likely to misdiagnose your problem or overlook certain key symptoms.
Send your medical records ahead of time.
Before you meet with a new doctor who can offer a second opinion, make sure you have all of your paperwork in order. Send any relevant medical records, test results, and patient information ahead of time so the specialist can review the information before you meet. This will make your appointment more valuable to both parties, as your doctor can ask follow-up questions and make a diagnosis during the first meeting, rather than waiting for the information to come.
This won’t guarantee that the second doctor won’t request additional tests — or conduct a second round of tests to see if anything has changed — but you can save time and money by making sure everyone is on the same page.
It’s okay to meet with competing doctors.
You don’t have to seek out specialist care or treatment options because one doctor tells you to. The whole point of a second opinion is to have a medical expert check on your condition and ensure you are on the right path to success.
According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 88 percent of patients (out of 286 studied by the Mayo Clinic) left their second opinions with new or refined diagnoses about their conditions. Furthermore, 21 percent left with a “distinctly different” diagnosis, meaning the second doctor viewed the symptoms differently.
This doesn’t mean that the first doctor was incorrect, but rather that the other doctor was able to take additional information and confirm or refine the diagnosis before the patients sought cancer treatment.
Second opinions save lives and money.
You should never feel guilty for reaching out to another doctor for their opinions on your condition. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, there are 80,000 deaths in the United States each year related to misdiagnosis and 12 million Americans suffer as a result of a diagnostic error each year, many of which lead to medical emergencies. Seeking a second opinion could save your life.
Catching a misdiagnosis early on can also save money, as health care bills can increase as you meeting with radiologists and get treatment. Even if you have comprehensive coverage like Medicare, these charges can start to add up.
If you have gut feelings that something might be wrong with your diagnosis, or just want to confirm that your doctor made the right call, seek out another medical professional to help. The right second option could prevent a medical emergency if they catch an unknown problem early on.