What to Know About Getting a Second Opinion
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2022
A diagnosis that does not feel right or a misdiagnosis (as so often can happen with rare diseases) can be overwhelming. You may have many questions about your diagnosis. You may also be curious about your treatment options.
It is normal to get a second opinion when you are faced with a serious health issue. Many people do it. And many doctors are comfortable with you getting that second opinion.1
What is a second opinion?
A second opinion is when you seek medical advice from another doctor to get a different perspective on your health condition. That doctor will review your medical history and evaluate your current condition. They will then offer their perspective on your diagnosis and make suggestions for treatment.1
Why seek another doctor’s opinion?
There are many reasons why you might want to get a second opinion, such as:1,2
- Your doctor cannot give you a clear diagnosis
- You are diagnosed with a rare disease
- You want a different perspective or a specialist in your condition
- You want to be aware of every possible treatment option
- You are not responding to treatment
- You want to get involved in clinical trials or other research studies
- Your current doctor is not explaining things in a way you understand
- You want peace of mind about your condition
- Your insurance requires a second opinion before covering a treatment
Some people seek out second or even third opinions after their initial diagnosis and before they begin treatment. But this is not the only time to talk to another doctor. If you are unhappy at any time with your diagnosis or treatment, or you want a different viewpoint, it is okay to get help from other doctors.
How to get a second opinion
It can feel stressful getting a second opinion. A good place to start is with your current doctor. Be open and honest with them. Tell them you are thinking of getting a second opinion. Ask them if they have anyone they would recommend.1,2
If they cannot refer you to anyone, there are other ways of finding another doctor for a second opinion. Consider asking any of the following for a recommendation:1,2
- Your local hospital or clinic
- Your health insurance
- A medical association focused on your condition
- Trusted friends and family
How to prepare for a second opinion
You have decided to seek a second opinion and made an appointment. Great! Here are some things to help you get ready:1,2
- Contact your insurance provider to see if a second opinion is covered.
- Gather all documents and test results and bring them to the new doctor. Or, have your current doctor forward your medical information to the new doctor.
- Be prepared with a list of questions you want answered.
This is a common step
Do not worry about upsetting your doctor’s feelings by getting a second opinion. Many doctors are open and encouraging when their patients want to get another doctor’s perspective.1
Your doctor may even encourage you to seek a second opinion. After all, another doctor may know more about issues that affect your specific case and diagnosis. Speaking to another doctor may help you find the best treatment options for your specific needs.1
What to do after
If the second doctor’s diagnosis and treatment recommendation is the same, you can feel comfort in knowing that you worked to get all the information possible.
But what if the diagnosis or treatment plan differs? Take some time to review both assessments. Choose the one that is right for your current situation. Ask the doctor what other people have done in your situation. Consider talking with your first doctor about the second opinion. Or, have both doctors discuss your case with each other.1,2
Second opinions can help to confirm a diagnosis, how advanced a disease is, and the right care plan. The path you should take – whether you get a second opinion or more – depends on your situation and what feels right to you.