Most people believe that second opinion is ONLY for a scary condition, however, this is not true. Even for small surgical procedures where the consequences may be cheaper medical care, better quality of life, or alternative procedure, you may want to seek a second opinion. It is not always before surgery or treatment but could be before starting any medication or going in for a surgery. But getting a second opinion is mostly considered when you have to make a medical choice either for yourself or your family, especially when dealing with diseases like cancer or any life-threatening disease but are not clear about the outcomes.
Why Do You Need A Second Opinion?
A second opinion is nothing but getting a clear idea about the various treatment options available to deal with the condition and knowing about the health consequences post-treatment or surgery. While you may not need a reason to get a second opinion for every other medical problem, there are times when getting one may be the best option.
But do keep in mind that second opinion may not necessarily be the right one. If the opinions provided by both the doctors differ significantly, then you may even have to go for a third one. The point here is to keep digging until you are well aware of all the possibilities related to the disease and diagnosis and possible treatment options.
However, this doesn’t mean that you do not have to trust your doctor’s capabilities or arrive at a conclusion that the treatment offered by your doctor is not right based on “Internet” search results. It goes without saying that getting a second opinion is a subjective matter and it depends on an individual to decide whether to consult another doctor or not.
Some of the common reasons you can or should get a second opinion are:
– If your doctor is not a specialist in your condition. For example, you may be consulting a diabetologist, but getting in touch with a nephrologist for kidney-related complications due to diabetes might help you get a better understanding of your condition.
– If you are diagnosed with cancer, then seeking advice from an expert or specialist makes more sense. It is best to be informed about your prognosis and possible treatment options for you as undergoing a treatment for cancer can be a life-changing event.
– If you are finding it difficult to talk to your doctor or if you feel your doctor is not clearly explaining about the feasible treatment options, going in for a second opinion is recommended. For example, your doctor may be good but is not able to or willing to give you an explanation for their treatment plan. In such cases, for your own peace of mind, it is wise to cross check with another expert.
– If you have even the slightest doubt about the diagnosis or recommended treatment or if your gut feeling is not right, then it’s better to get a second opinion. You can read more about your condition, meet another doctor, ask questions about your condition and prescriptions to your doctor till you are clear.
– If your symptoms continue even after a treatment or if you are not feeling better, then it’s better to reach out to other doctors for a second opinion as the right diagnosis is the key for proper treatment.
– If you are diagnosed with a rare condition or if your doctor doesn’t explain what is wrong with you, then it is wise to get a clear information from another doctor. You can also look online for a second opinion consultation. For example, Wilson’s disease, which causes a severe allergic reaction when a person comes in contact with the copper metal, is a rare condition. So if you are diagnosed with it, it is important to seek a second opinion to know how accurate the diagnosis is and the possible treatment options available.
– It is wise to get a second opinion if your doctor suggests a treatment option which is risky, involves surgery, is invasive or has lifelong consequences. As exploring your options and being proactive can help you get a better control over your treatment.
– To get a clear idea about the diagnosis and prognosis, especially if the doctor treating you fails to suggest you a proper or possible outcome of the treatment. For example, if you are suffering from irregular periods or heavy bleeding in between your periods, then whether the condition can be treated with medications or you need a surgery is a call your gynaecologist has to take. In such cases, there is no harm to get in touch with another expert to confirm the treatment plan.
-To know every possible treatment option for a particular disease or condition including the one that the hospital you are getting treated is not offering. From dental implants and hair growth techniques to valve replacement procedures, you should be well aware of all the latest treatment options.
-If you want to consider other forms of treatment options such as Ayurvedic or homoeopathy along with allopathy. If you do not wish to consult a doctor personally, you can even opt for an online consultation where you can get in touch with experts as per your requirements and get your queries resolved.
– To be aware of the various cheaper or charitable treatment care options available, which can provide cheaper alternatives for medicines as well as consultation. For example, if you have to a certain medication for the rest of your life and there is a cheaper option available for it, then why not seek a second opinion on whether you can avail it or not.
How To Get A Second Opinion?
One of the best ways to get a second opinion is to ask your doctor to refer someone. Here are a few ways to start a conversation:
“I am planning to get a second opinion, can you please recommend a specialist who can help?”
“Before starting off with the treatment, I would like to get a second opinion. Can you help me with that?”
“If you had this condition, whom would you consult to get an opinion?”
“I want all my queries answered before considering anything and I think it would be good to talk to another doctor or the expert dealing with this to be doubly sure.”
You can even consider getting in touch with another doctor on your own. For this, you can either go by patients reviews and feedback or opt for online doctor consultation platforms, which are known to give a second opinion. Whatever is your approach to the second opinion, there are a few things you need to ask and do, especially in the case of online consultation.
If you are taking a physical appointment, you may need to carry a copy of the following documents or if you are planning to go for an online consultation, then keep a copy of the documents to upload them online. You need these documents for sure whether you go for a physical consultation or opt for an online consultation.
-Your lab reports including all the blood tests and even biopsy or surgery reports.
-Your operative report if you have undergone a surgery.
-Your discharge summary, if you have been admitted to a hospital or have been discharged recently.
-The prescription (list of drugs, their doses, and how/when you took them) provided by your current doctor.
-The summary of the treatment plan by your current doctor.
Most people do not get a second opinion as they think they might offend their doctor or feel that the treatment must be started urgently (especially for conditions such as cancer). However, it is important to be well aware of your condition and treatment options available before for starting a treatment. Also, lack of access to consulting a doctor is cited to be an issue, but with online consultation, getting a second opinion has become easy. So if you feel the need a second opinion just consult a doctor and clear your doubts before treatment.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)