Cancer treatment is extremely complex, and can be comprised of components like medicine, surgery, radiation and more. Each oncologist you encounter has unique experiences that will affect the treatments s/he prescribes for your individual cancer management. But what if you are uncomfortable or apprehensive about a proposed treatment? What if your diagnosis is unclear?

Many patients are nervous to ask their oncologists for access to a second opinion, but consider this: isn’t the minor (but very uncommon) awkwardness a price worth paying for becoming an even more thoroughly informed patient?

The truth is, a second opinion is a very common request, and one that most doctors will be happy to cater to. Securing a second opinion can be done through a referral from your physician, or you may wish to seek out a second opinion on your own and then have your current treating physician forward the referral.

When should I ask for a second opinion? (Click here to view the source)

  • You don’t trust the opinion of your treating physician
  • Your diagnosis is unclear
  • Your case is borderline (such as a tumor that is “nearly inoperable”)
  • You have a rare form of cancer
  • Your treatment is controversial or experimental
  • You have been given no hope for a cure

How can I tactfully request  a second opinion? (Click here to view the CCAC’s Physician Questions site)

  • “Before we start treatment, I would like to get a second opinion. Will you assist me with that?”
  • “If you had my type of cancer, who would you see for a second opinion?”
  • “I think I would like to speak to another doctor to be sure I have all my bases covered.”
  • “I’m thinking of seeking out a second opinion. Can you recommend someone? If so, who would you recommend and why?”

Asking for a second opinion is a sure sign that you aspire to be a well-informed patient.  Educating yourself on your various treatment options and the various points of view within the medical community make you a member of your cancer care team.  Be the player, not the puck.