Getting a Second Opinion on Cancer Treatment

Doctor speaking to a man who is wearing a hospital gown

It can be hard to make a choice about what kinds of treatment to have for cancer. You may want to have a second opinion. This means having another doctor review your diagnosis and treatment options.

Why get a second opinion?

It's vital that you feel good about your treatment choices. A second opinion can help you make your decisions.

When doctors plan cancer treatments, they consider:

  • The type and stage of your cancer

  • How likely the cancer can be cured with each treatment

  • How the treatment will affect your daily life

  • Your overall health

  • Your personal preferences

A second doctor can review all of these factors. He or she can help you make sure of your decisions.

Is it a problem to get a second opinion?

Many health insurers will pay for a second opinion. Some even require a second opinion. And in most cases, a short delay in treatment will not reduce the chance that it will work.

How to get a second opinion

You have a number of ways to find a doctor who can give a second opinion. These include:

  • Your primary care doctor. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist. This may be a surgeon. Or it may be a medical or radiation oncologist. These doctors often work together at cancer centers and hospitals.

  • Your cancer specialist. He or she may be able to refer you to another specialist.

  • NCI Contact Center. This is a service of the National Cancer Institute. They can tell you how to find cancer treatment centers. You can contact them at 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237), or at their website.

  • Commission on Cancer. This is a program from the American College of Surgeons. They approve medical centers and hospitals that provide the best cancer care. You can search for an approved medical center.

  • American Medical Association (AMA). This group has an online Doctor Finder service. The AMA also has a directory of the medical groups in each state. This can help you to find doctors in your state.

Other options for a second opinion include:

  • A local medical society

  • A nearby hospital or medical school

  • A local cancer advocacy group

  • Other people who have had cancer

Talk with your healthcare provider to find local resources like these.

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