If your doctor has diagnosed a serious disease and suggests invasive or massive drug therapy, the most reasonable next step is to seek a second opinion from another medical specialist (ideally, not from the same clinic, city or even country to ensure that a new opinion is as unbiased as possible). But how do you know if a second opinion is necessary? And where do you get it? Below are the answers to these and other important questions.
When should you consider a second opinion?
A second or even a third opinion should be preferably requested in case of any serious medical condition. Sometimes time works against the patient. Therefore, you should not waste your time considering various treatment options and seeking numerous medical opinions if urgent action is required and a second medical opinion is unavailable for any reason. If, for example, the biopsy results clearly confirm an oncological disease and this type of cancer is treated worldwide according to the same procedure and there is no way to consult another doctor, be quick to make a treatment decision. However, if your doctor suggests non-urgent surgery that can wait at least a few weeks or an expensive medical test that can cause side effects or challenging drug therapy, it can be worthwhile to seek a second opinion for any of the following reasons:
- Surgery has been recommended for you
- Your diagnosis is unclear
- You have been told you have a rare or life-threatening disease
- You have a number of health issues
- The recommended treatment is risky, controversial, or experimental
- You can choose among different treatments or tests that vary widely in cost
- You can choose between conservative and invasive treatment
- You are not responding to a treatment as expected
- You have lost confidence in your doctor
- Your health insurance plan requires a second opinion
- You just have doubts and would like to consult an independent doctor
Even if your doubts are minimal, it is still recommended to get a second opinion if you are considering an expensive treatment option. After all, no single doctor knows everything about all medical conditions or new medical technologies.
If you decide to seek a second opinion, the first rule is to consult a medical specialist with (at least) the same level of education and competence as your current doctor. Consider consulting a specialist abroad.
It would be a good idea to get a second opinion from a doctor who works for a medical institution that specializes in your disease, for example, an oncology centre, a heart surgery centre, an orthopedic clinic or an in vitro fertilization centre. Such centres are likely to have state-of-the-art equipment and a team of medical specialists to review your case. In addition, if you contact your medical tourism agency, you can always express your specific wishes for hospital selection.