In cancer, expertise is crucial: Tips on getting a second opinion

June 16, 2014 | by

Cancer is a daunting diagnosis, and patients need to be confident in their treatment decisions. Often that means they have to be their own advocates and get a second opinion.

second opinions on cancer care

Cancer patients must be confident in their treatment decisions. Often that means they need a second opinion.

That’s easier said than done. Some patients fear that seeking a second opinion will alienate their doctor, the person in whom they've placed their trust. Others simply don't know how to begin.

Here are a few tips on getting a second opinion from the experts at City of Hope.

1. For starters, be assured that an informed patient is a good patient. Top doctors understand this. Also, it's not necessary to ask your doctor for an authorization to get a second opinion. Simply call any one of your doctors and ask for your records to be sent to you. It’s that simple – and it's your right.

2. Be aware that specialized institutions such as City of Hope may have treatment options that are not available elsewhere, such as IORT, short for intraoperative radiation therapy. With IORT, one dose of radiation during surgery reduces treatment from six weeks to just one day. Such therapies are worth investigating, and you deserve to know about them.

3. Inquire about the chance you could participate in a clinical trial. You will still get gold standard treatment – that’s mandatory – but you might also be able to get additional treatment that improve your odds of remission, reduce your side effects or enhance your quality of life. At City of Hope, we offer an array of clinical trials for many types and stages of cancer.

4. Come prepared to your second-opinion appointment – and ask many questions, particularly about treatments, options and where to find them. Also, ask about details of your diagnosis. Diagnostic errors affect about 12 million people in the U.S. each year. One former City of Hope patient, for example, was urged by her physician to undergo a hysterectomy for a benign cyst. Instead she had ovarian cancer. She sought care at City of Hope and is now living cancer free.

5. Understand that getting a second opinion is simply a search for information. Ultimately, City of Hope experts may agree with your doctor’s treatment plan. If they do, and you maintain your original course of therapy, you can do so with increased confidence. If our doctors make different recommendations, you’ll know that their advice is based on extremely specialized expertise and experience in your specific disease.

Learn more about getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.