Getting a Second Opinion Matters!
"To err is human" - Alexander Pope
People make mistakes every day and because doctors are people, then they can make mistakes too. Gone are the days when you have to accept what you are told is absolute truth. Today when a patient is given a diagnosis, they have the luxury of doing research on their diagnosis and treatment options. This isn’t just a luxury but a necessity. Some doctors are more aggressive while others tend to be more conservative making their findings and treatment recommendations vary dramatically. The patient needs to be an educated consumer, scrutinize treatment recommendations as necessary versus unnecessary, seek second opinions, and do their own research regarding their treatment.
A recent Mayo Clinic Study found that 88% of patients who visited the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion were found to have their initial diagnosis changed or modified as a result of a second opinion. Only 12% of the patients in the study left the clinic with the same diagnosis.
When Should You Seek a Second Opinion?
If you are diagnosed with cancer
If you are diagnosed with a rare disease
If the recommended treatment is risky, involves surgery, is invasive or has lifelong consequences
If you have undergone treatment but your symptoms continue
If your gut reaction tells you something is off
Cancer Diagnosis: No one doctor knows or has read every single study and clinical trial in the country. Patients need to advocate for themselves and get second opinions so that they know they have the best treatment plan possible!
Rare Disease Diagnosis: The risk of misdiagnosis is high when a patient is diagnosed with a rare disease. Rare diseases are rare and difficult to diagnose due to multiple factors including some patient’s symptoms are nonspecific, some patients have unusual symptoms, new constantly changing information affects diagnosis, and even finding a specialist is difficult. Try to find a specialist who has treated your diagnosis before.
Invasive/Risky Treatment Recommendations: A patient should always explore other options before agreeing to a risky, invasive procedure that might not fix the underlying problem and might cause complications that are worse than the condition itself. Being proactive and gathering more information might prevent an unnecessary procedure.
Persistent Symptoms Despite Treatment: If a patient continues to experience the same symptoms even after they have been treated for their condition, they need to explore the possibility that the original diagnosis or treatment were possibly wrong. If you are not feeling better or your symptoms are not going away, get a second opinion.
Your Gut Tells You Something Is Not Right: It never hurts to hear someone else’s opinion and to tell your story for the 100th time, especially if you feel like your diagnosis or treatment plan is wrong. Never agree to a treatment that you don’t fully support. Trust your gut, gather more information, and get another opinion.
-Dr. Ronnie Shalev is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician