Getting A Second Opinion
There is no wrong time to seek a second opinion. It is important that a second opinion be obtained from a doctor who has experience treating individuals with melanoma. Large cancer centers have doctors who are familiar with melanoma and the most up-to-date treatments and research. For some patients, that may mean having to travel a distance.
Getting a second opinion may help a patient better understand their diagnosis and help them determine a treatment plan that is best for them. Remember that it is a patient’s right to get a second opinion. Even though asking a doctor for a second opinion may be intimidating, most doctors treat such requests as routine.
A second opinion should take into consideration the initial physician’s findings, such as the pathology report, stage of cancer, physical condition, and the proposed treatment plan. The second physician will then offer an opinion on both the diagnosis and treatment plan. If the doctor giving the second opinion agrees with the original physician, then a patient will have more confidence in the treatment decision they are making. On the other hand, if the second opinion is different, it gives the patient more treatment options to consider.
When You Should Consider a Second Opinion
There are specific situations in which a second opinion is advisable. You should seek a second opinion if:
- Your diagnosis was made by a doctor without expertise in melanoma
- You don’t understand your diagnosis or you are having trouble understanding and communicating with your doctor
- You have been told there are no good treatment options for your melanoma
- Your doctor gives you several different treatment options
- You don’t feel that all possible treatment options have been explored
- Your doctor does not offer clinical trials
- Your health insurance plan requires a second opinion before having a particular treatment
- Your doctor recommends that you seek a second opinion
- Your treatment plan involves aggressive treatment
How to Get a Second Opinion
There are a number of ways to find a doctor for a second opinion:
- AIM at Melanoma maintains a list of melanoma specialists around the country.
- When you are referred to a specialist. At cancer centers, you may have access to several specialists, who often work together as a team.
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) allows the public to search for member oncologists through its Cancer.net website
- The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has a list of doctors who have met certain education and training requirements and have passed specialty examinations. The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists lists doctors’ names along with their specialty and their educational background. The directory is available in most public libraries. Also, ABMS offers this information on the Internet at abms.org. (Click on “Who’s Certified.”)
- A local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school can also provide the names of specialists
Many healthcare insurance companies do understand the importance of second opinions and routinely pay for them. In fact, some healthcare insurance companies insist on a second opinion before treatment is initiated (especially if the primary physician recommends an expensive or novel treatment). You should check with your health insurance provider. If your insurance plan does not provide for a second opinion, it is strongly advised that you still consider seeking one.