Seeking a Second Opinion
When you’re facing thyroid cancer treatment, it’s normal to wonder if another doctor could offer a different treatment option. You may 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. Getting a second opinion can help you feel more sure about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Decisions about your health should be made after you have learned all you can about your diagnosis, prognosis, and available treatment options.
There are many reasons for getting a second opinion including:
- You want to be sure you have explored all options
- You think your doctor is underestimating how serious your cancer is
- Your doctor is not sure what is wrong with you
- You have a rare or unusual cancer
- You think another treatment might be available
- Your doctor is not a specialist in your type of cancer
- Your doctor tells you there is uncertainty about the type or extent of cancer you have
- Your doctor gives you a few different treatment options.
- You’re having trouble understanding and communicating with your doctor, or you want your options explained by someone else.
- You just want peace of mind that you are making the right choice
The second opinion process: what to expect
Before you start looking for a second opinion, contact your insurance company to find out what your policy covers. In some cases, you may have to get a second opinion from another doctor who is part of your health plan before the plan will pay for your treatment
It’s important to be able to give the new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and planned treatment. Make sure you have the following information handy and always keep copies for yourself:
- A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
- If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that every doctor prepares when patients are sent home
- A summary of your doctor’s current treatment plan.
- Since some drugs can have long-term side effects, a list of all your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
You can ask your treating doctor’s office for copies of your records. If the treatment or test took place in a hospital, you will need to contact their medical records department to find out how to get these records.
Deciding where to go for a second opinion
If the second opinion differs from the first, you may find the following tips helpful:
- Make an appointment with your first doctor to talk about the second opinion.
- Ask both doctors to explain how they arrived at their treatment plan
- Ask them how they interpreted your test results
- Ask what research studies or professional guidelines they consulted
- Ask what they have recommended to other patients in your same situation
- Ask if it is possible for the two doctors to review your case together
- You might need to get 3rd opinion from another specialist— a pathologist, surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist — to talk about the two opinions and give their opinion on your situation.
- You may need to do your own research on the latest treatment guidelines. Two good sources are the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Treatment Guidelines ( www.nccn.org) and the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) PDQ® Cancer Treatment Summaries ( www.cancer.gov). Both are available in versions for health professionals (which use medical language and terminology) and patients (which use everyday language).