Senior Health

When confronted with a medical diagnosis, especially one you don’t want to hear, one of your first instincts may be to get a second medical opinion: when another doctor reviews your condition and gives his or her view about the issue and its treatment. As long as your medical condition or treatment isn’t an emergency, you might want to consider doing this. It’s not rare to get a second opinion. According to Yale surgeon Dr. Anees Chagpar, “Second opinions are common these days.” Second opinions aren’t just for life-threatening illnesses, either. Even getting a second opinion for a medical issue that could affect your quality of life can help you know you’re getting the best treatment.

If you’re concerned that seeking a second medical opinion will offend your doctor, don’t worry. Most doctors consult their colleagues for opinions on challenging cases anyway, especially when another doctor is an expert in another area or has had a patient with a similar condition. Medical cases are complex, and new treatments are developed all the time. Doctors know that other medical professionals may have more experience in an area than they do. To provide the best care possible for their patients, they often turn to colleagues.

Your doctor may even recommend an additional doctor to consult. Ask your doctor to send your medical records to the second doctor, so you don’t have to repeat any medical tests you’ve already taken. Before the appointment, verify that the doctor has your records, and prepare a list of questions to ask. Here are the top six reasons to get a second medical opinion.

1. To Help You Make the Best Healthcare Decisions

Your doctor wants you to feel empowered as a patient, and not to feel like you’re being forced into a decision about your health. Different doctors have different processes and different ideas about treatment. When you talk to a second doctor about your illness or condition, you might learn more about it. You’ll be able to return to your first doctor with more knowledge, and be able to communicate better about your condition.

2. To Get a Different Perspective

Doctors may approach your symptoms or condition differently. Some patients seek out a doctor from a different culture or of a different gender, in case a different person’s perspective, personality, or experience makes a difference in diagnosis or treatment.

3. To Compare Treatments

Sometimes it’s not the actual diagnosis that you want a second opinion about. The diagnosis may be clear, but what happens next may not be as obvious. You may want more information on options for treatment, and a different doctor may have more experience with treating the condition or may be more familiar with new advances in treating the condition. In addition, different facilities may have different treatment options. Some treatments – especially if they’re new or if they’re offered as a clinical trial – may not be available everywhere. If your doctor isn’t affiliated with a facility offering a certain treatment, they may not suggest it as an option.

4. To Save You Time and Money

In some cases, getting a second opinion can prevent you from getting unnecessary surgery. A 2017 study from the Mayo Clinic showed that 1 in 5 patients who get a second opinion receive a different diagnosis. Only about 12% receive the exact same diagnosis as the first. A second opinion might also result in quicker access to appropriate therapy and reduce the need for unnecessary tests or treatments.  

5. To Create a Healthy Relationship With Your Doctor

Researchers who study the doctor-patient relationship have found that seeking a second opinion actually strengthens the relationship. When a patient seeks a second opinion, it increases the trust between patient and doctor and makes the relationship more of a partnership.

6. To Give You Peace of Mind

Sometimes it happens that the diagnosis and treatment plan is the same as the first opinion. Knowing that more than one medical professional agrees on your diagnosis and treatment brings significant peace of mind. You won’t have to worry as much about the “what ifs.”