Whether a recent diagnosis means you're facing surgery, chemo or any other course of treatment, it's natural to want to seek a second opinion. But if you're not sure how to go about it, follow these steps:
LET YOUR DOCTOR KNOW ASAP. Don't worry -- he or she won't be upset! In fact, your doctor is likely to support your decision. Input from a colleague helps ensure you get the best care possible. Simply say something like, "Doctor, I am sure you understand that I would like to talk to another physician about my condition. I wanted you to be aware that I will be seeking a second opinion and wonder how you'd like me to follow up." You could even as him for a referral!
SEARCH FOR YOUR NEW DOCTOR. If your doctor can't suggest someone, ask friends and family to recommend someone. Your insurance company may provide a list of in-network doctors in your area to help you narrow your search, or you can also visit the American Board of Medical Specialties website http://www.abms.org/ to find a board -certified specialist in any field.
NARROW YOUR CHOICES. Once you've compiled a few names, call to make sure the doctors are taking new patients, how long you'll have to wait for an appointment and if the doctor accepts your insurance, then set up an appointment with the doctor who is the best fit.
SJCCF TIP: Found a specialist, but she's only accepting referrals? Tell your primary care doctor to write a second opinion consultation referral for you and then ask the front desk to set up an appointment for you!
GET YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS. Ask your primary care doctor or specialist (for thyroid cancer patients this is usually your endocrinologist or ENT) for your medical records and copies of any test results such as blood work and radiology reports. Sending (or delivering) them yourself a few days before your appointment is the best way to make sure they get there in time for your consultation.
SJCCF TIP: Aim to get your records to the second opinion consultation doctor about a week before your visit if possible to give the doctor enough time to become familiar and/or research your case.
TREAT YOUR SECOND OPINION CONSULTATION JUST LIKE A REGULAR APPOINTMENT. Now that you're at your visit, be prepared to discuss all your symptons, just as you did with your primary doctor and to go over your records and test results. Your second opinion doctor may also ask that new or additional tests be run.
Once your second opinion doctor is ready to weigh in, one of three things will likely happen:
1) Your second opinion doctor agrees with the original diagnosis and treatment plan suggestions.
2) Your second opinion doctor might agree with the original diagnosis, but suggests a different treatment, which means you'll have to decide which treatment and provider you work best for you.
3) Your second opinion doctor disagrees completely with your original diagnosis and treatment plan, which means that you need a third opinion or ask that your two doctors speak to each other about your case.
SJCCF TIP: Make sure you understand why your second opinion doctor disagrees with your doctor and that you are prepared to seek a third opinion as soon as possible.
Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is working to develop and launch an access to care grant program for thyroid cancer patients and survivors nationwide. Please consider supporting our unique initiative that includes a set aside fund for healthcare access to assist thyroid cancer survivors with medical costs associated with follow up treatment, annual exams, diagnostics and medications.
SJCCFThyNet is a project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c) 3 Public Charity and as such all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.