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Getting a Second Opinion

Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes are each different types of cancers. What's more, each disease has subtypes. This means that the signs of the disease, how it's diagnosed and treated and the expected outcomes vary. That's why it's essential to have the right diagnosis before you begin or continue with treatment.

You may want to get a second or third medical opinion after receiving a diagnosis and before beginning or continuing treatment, especially if you're concerned about whether a specific doctor or treatment center is right for you. It's important to confirm a specific cancer diagnosis. And it's okay to let your doctor know that you'd like a second opinion; most doctors are used to patients seeking second opinions and even encourage it. If you still feel uncomfortable about it, plan what you want to say ahead of time, such as:

  • "I'm worried, and I know that getting a second opinion will help ease my mind."
  • "I'd like to have someone else review my case to assure myself that I'm making the most informed decision possible."

Request that your doctor send your records to the oncologist who'll be providing the second opinion. Ask your doctor if the pathologist reviewing your blood and marrow test results is a hematology-oncology specialist. If not, consider having your test results reviewed by a pathologist who specializes in hematology-oncology.

Find a cancer specialist

Insurance companies usually pay for second opinions and, in some cases, require them. (Check your health plan first, though.)

Download questions for your insurance company about second opinion coverage

Another specialist can review your test results and medical history to:

  • answer your questions
  • present other options to consider
  • provide reassurance that you've been thorough in seeking care

However, if you have an acute illness (such as certain aggressive types of lymphoma or leukemia), delaying therapy to have several consultations is generally not a good idea.

Download questions to ask during a second opinion consultation

If the second opinion you get is different than the first, ask both doctors what led them to their conclusions. You may then want to get a third opinion to help you decide what to do (again, check with your insurance provider first). Or, you may want to talk with your treatment team about what to do next.

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you're not sure about whether to get a second opinion, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I satisfied with my specialist's qualifications and experience?
  • Has the specialist explained my diagnosis and treatment options in a way that I understand?
  • Am I satisfied with the expertise of the medical professionals involved in determining my diagnosis, including that of the hematopathologist?
  • Does the specialist's approach, treatment plan and treatment center meet my needs regarding health plan coverage and/or location?
  • Do I feel comfortable asking all my questions?
  • Does the specialist take the time to address my concerns respectfully and completely or do I feel rushed?
  • Do the doctor's staff members seem well informed and courteous? Are they available to help me with billing concerns, medication questions, referrals to support organizations and other information?
last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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