Living with Chronic Pain

When and How to Ask for a Second Opinion


Anytime an individual is dealing with a serious illness or a chronic condition, it is only natural to consider a second opinion. There are a variety of reasons to seek a second opinion, some of these reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Education about every possible treatment option
  • Diagnosis not provided by current health care provider
  • A rare or unusual diagnosis
  • Need for a specialist in the diagnosed condition.
  • Difficulty talking to or understanding current doctor
  • Disbelief in diagnosis

Asking for a second opinion

Individuals may be apprehensive to seek a second opinion because they are afraid of offending their doctor. However, including a doctor in the search for a second opinion shows the doctor that the individual still values their opinion and care; actually, most health care providers welcome a second opinion. The American Cancer Society suggests different ways an individual can initiate a conversation with a health care provider about a second opinion:

  • "I am thinking about getting a second opinion. Could you recommend someone?"
  • "Before we start treatment, I would like to get a second opinion, would you help me with that?"
  • "If you had this type of condition or diagnosis, who would you see for a second opinion?"
  • "I think it would give me peace of mind to get a second opinion."

Checking insurance policy coverage

In most cases, immediate treatment is not required. This makes it possible to get a second or even third opinion. Before seeking out a second opinion, individuals should contact their health insurance company to ensure their policy will pay for a second opinion. Also, asking their current doctor for a referral to another specialist often makes it easier to obtain coverage from the insurance company. Finally, individuals should ask their current doctor for copies of all personal medical records for use while obtaining a second opinion.

Ensuring a successful second opinion appointment

Here are some things to take to a second opinion appointment to ensure an efficient visit:

  • A copy of any reports regarding pathology or biopsies
  • If surgery was done, copies of any operative reports
  • If hospitalized in the past, copies of discharge papers
  • A summary of the current doctor’s treatment plan
  • A list of all medications and supplements with specific dosage information

It is important for individuals to advocate for their health. Competent doctors will recognize this and be supportive in the journey of obtaining a second opinion.

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