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Jim & Wife

Seeking A Medical Opinion

Jim with the love of his life for 50+ years. 

We may all have doubts about how to proceed when a lot is at stake, whether an investment, a step toward a big life change, or if it pertains to a big health decision. In such cases when we have been given advice by a professional we may still feel it necessary to get input or opinion on the matter from another in the field. Health-wise, over my many years I have only sought two second opinions on my diagnosis or treatment. Both involved the need for surgery and what would be done.

Hester Hill Schnipper, in the Cancer Today Magazine, points out things to do and to be aware of when you have decided to seek a second physician’s opinion. Adding to Ms. Schnipper’s advice, I want to reemphasize that the medical second opinion, if handled well, can be important to relieve your mind (or not if the opinion differs) and to add to the information basis on which the decision might be made and the treatment provided.

I will list some of the things Ms. Schnipper recommends:

  • It is wise to tell you doctor that you are planning to get a second opinion. This is particularly important if you are planning on your doctor proceeding with the treatment if you decide to go forward. Likewise, input from the second opinion physician may be beneficial to your doctor, and such information should not come as a surprise.
  • Find an outside source. When seeking a second opinion physician, check with advocacy groups, knowledgeable friends and family, and for that matter, your current doctor. It is best to look for a physician not part of your current doctor’s practice.
  • Tell the second physician. When you have found a physician and you call to schedule an appointment, be upfront and tell the staff immediately that you are seeking a second opinion from the physician. If you are accepted, the physician will need information such as prior tests and reports. You will need to provide wide-ranging information on your past medical history as this is your first visit with this physician.
  • Keep communication clear. You should be clear with the physician what you wish to get out of seeking the second opinion – more advice on your medical condition, a new perspective on the treatment, or if you are actually seeking to change doctors.
  • List questions/concerns. Prior to meeting with the second opinion physician, prepare a comprehensive list of questions and concerns that can guide you toward your decision.
  • Ask questions. If you do not plan to change doctors, make sure you ask the second opinion physician how you can get a copy of the visit notes and any tests and medical records, so you can share them with your current doctor.
  • may not agree. Importantly, you need to be prepared for the possibility that the second opinion physician does not agree with your current doctor’s diagnosis or suggest a different course of treatment. This may require further searching to reassure you toward a decision.

Bottom line, where the circumstances are important and outcome may be less than certain, big health decisions can be very difficult. A part of the equation in addition to any second opinion is the support and assurance of friends and family and your research into the outcomes of various treatments. All these are important for you to be confident on the decision itself, and living with any outcomes from that decision.