Do I Need A Second Opinion?
It’s never wrong to seek a second opinion.
Once you’ve been given a diagnosis and the options for treatment, your doctor will usually give you at least a short period of time to make a decision about your treatment. This interval is a good time to seek a second opinion. Note: You will need to request that your medical records and tests results be shared with the referral doctor.
The second opinion should be obtained from a doctor who specializes in treating melanoma. Large cancer centers have doctors who are familiar with melanoma and the most up-to-date treatments and research. For some patients, seeing a specialist at a large cancer center may mean having to travel a distance, but if you can manage the travel, it is likely worthwhile.
A second opinion will take into consideration all of the information available to the initial physician, such as the pathology report, stage of cancer, physical exam results, and the proposed treatment plan.
Why You Should Consider A Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion may help you better understand your diagnosis and help you determine a treatment plan that is best for you.
The second doctor may explain the diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment differently. S/he may have access to more or different clinical trials. S/he may favor one treatment over another for a convincing reason. This differently explained or new information may change how you feel about treatment or where you should be seen.
On the other hand, the second doctor may confirm your first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan, which can give you great confidence in the treatment decision you are making.
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 or 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 and you aren’t sure which one is best for you
- 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
Remember that it is a patient’s right to get a second opinion. Many patients worry about telling their doctor they plan to seek a second opinion, but they should not. Most doctors are not only comfortable with the request, they expect it. It is common for patients—especially those with late stage cancer—to get a second opinion.
How To Get A Second Opinion
You should find a doctor who specializes in melanoma in order to get a second opinion. The following are ways to find a melanoma specialist:
- Your doctor: Ask him or her for a referral
- AIM at Melanoma’s searchable database of U.S. and Canadian melanoma specialists
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s list of member oncologists, available through its website
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.