When to Get a Second Opinion

When to Get a Second Opinion

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A second opinion can be useful in many situations. While getting a second opinion should ultimately be up to you, (assuming it isn't required by your insurance company), this article explores reasons for and against getting a second opinion.

Some years ago a nurse I worked with became ill. She went to a doctor, had some blood work done, and was diagnosed with a form of cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

This was a devastating diagnosis. I remember it was Christmas time. Her family and friends all gathered around her to offer support but she ended up taking quite a bit of time off of work to grieve. She had an appointment with an oncologist in the month of January.

After probably one of the hardest holiday seasons of her life, she went to the oncologist expecting chemotherapy, radiation, and possibly death. Instead, she left the doctor's office with a new diagnosis -- mononucleosis. The first doctor had been mistaken. She didn't have cancer. She had an infectious illness that, while debilitating for a short time, would go away after several weeks. Most, if not all, of her symptoms would disappear.

In most people's eyes, this story definitely tips the scales in favor of getting a second opinion and there are plenty of reasons to do so:

  • Peace of mind.
  • The diagnosis is serious and the doctor is recommending aggressive or invasive treatment.
  • You are uncomfortable with the diagnosis your physician has made.
  • It doesn't make sense or coincide with the advice of other medical professionals.

There are also many reasons not to get a second opinion:

  • Cost. It can be expensive to get a second opinion.
  • More tests. If we're talking about blood work, it's probably no big deal. But what if we're talking about endoscopy for example? This sometimes requires a bowel clean out (not pleasant I assure you), hours of fasting, sedation and mild discomfort after the test.
  • You are comfortable with the diagnosis your physician made or it is what you expected.
  • The treatment your doctor suggests has little or no side effects.
  • Time. You may spend a lot of time on the phone trying to get medical records transferred in addition to the time you will spend seeing a new doctor and possibly having more testing.

It seems that most people think of getting a second opinion only in the case of cancer. Certainly diagnosis of cancer in the ear, nose, or throat can warrant a second opinion. However, there are other ENT disorders you might consider seeking an second opinion for as well. Meniere's Disease, for instance is rare and chronic. You may consider getting a second opinion if you encounter this diagnosis or other rare or serious ENT disorders.

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