Talking With Your Doctor

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Getting a second opinion

Cancer treatment is very complex, and some people don’t know where to start asking questions. But they might wonder if another doctor could offer something different in the way of treatment. You may find that you want to talk with another doctor who can look at your test results, talk with you about your personal situation, and maybe give you a different take on it.

Some people find it hard to tell their doctors that they’d like a second opinion. It may help you to know that it’s common for patients to get a second opinion, and most doctors are comfortable with the request. In fact, some insurance companies require you to get one before you start treatment. If you are unsure of how to begin, here are some statements that may help you bring it up with your doctor.

  • “Before we start treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Will you help me with that?”
  • “If you had my type of cancer, who would you see for a second opinion?”
  • “I think that I’d like to talk with another doctor to be sure I have all my bases covered.”
  • “I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. Can you recommend someone?”

You can ask your doctor to refer you to someone, as suggested above. You may also want to look at our document called Choosing a Doctor and a Hospital for other ideas.

Once you have decided who you will see for your second opinion, ask that your medical records, original x-rays, and all test results be shared with the new doctor. This way you won’t have to repeat them. You’ll probably need to ask the doctor’s office staff to help you with this. You may need to sign a release of information form to have the records sent. Or you may want to take copies of your medical records to the new doctor yourself.

Last Medical Review: 05/04/2012
Last Revised: 05/04/2012