Whether you have a nagging sports injury or a life-threatening condition, you have the right to get more than one expert opinion. In fact, it can be an important part of your medical care.
"Getting a second opinion is a way for you to gather more information about your condition — whether you already have a diagnosis or are looking for a diagnosis," says Gerry Bohac, MD, gastrointestinal oncologist at Rush University Medical Center. "I tell my patients, 'You should never hesitate to seek a second opinion. This is your life and your body.'"
Getting a second opinion can sometimes open the door to different treatment options, Bohac says, because another hospital and even another doctor may offer alternative treatments. For example, someone with cancer that has spread to the abdominal cavity might come to Rush for an advanced treatment called intraperitoneal chemotherapy that isn't available at every hospital.
Seeking a second opinion is very common in cancer care, he says. "Cancer can be a life or death matter, so it's very important that you are comfortable with your treatment plan."
Don't worry about your doctor being insulted if you seek the opinion of another specialist. It is not about the doctor, but rather about knowing your options.
Getting a second opinion is especially important to consider in the following cases:
You want to make sure you know all the options available to you.
You think your condition is more serious than your doctor does.
You don't yet have a diagnosis.
Your insurance plan requires it.
Check with your health insurance company, however, before you see another doctor. Insurance companies vary on how they handle second opinions. You may need to get another opinion from a doctor who is associated with your plan before your insurance will approve payment for treatment.
Bohac also recommends letting your doctor know you're getting a second opinion. "Just as we need to know what medications you are taking, we need to know if you are getting a second opinion so we can help manage your care," he says.
And remember, whether you get your second opinion at Rush or somewhere else, getting the expert opinion of more than one specialist can help you find the treatment that is right for you.
For more on how to get a second opinion, visit www.rush.edu/discover or call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).
Gerry Bohac, MD, is also an assistant professor at Rush University. He is researching new medications for the treatment of gastrointestinal tumors and helping bring them to the public through clinical trials.