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Getting a Second Opinion

Originally published on November 10, 2009
Most recently updated on April 10, 2013

Not everyone wants or requires a second opinion, but it can be very reassuring, and no doctor should be insulted by your requesting to consult another doctor about your child’s life and well-being. Opinions may not, of course, be of equal value. Try to obtain them from pediatric specialists and/or oncologists familiar with cases like your child’s.

Consider asking your child’s doctor to call and make the appointment for you. You’re more likely to get a second opinion quickly if your child’s doctor makes the call. If you are unable to enlist the help of your child’s doctor, take the initiative and make the appointments yourself.

It will be important for you to obtain as many diagnostic reports (scan results, laboratory reports, surgical pathology slides, and so on) as you can when you seek a second opinion. Most treatment centers will specify what records are needed for a second opinion. You are entitled to these records. Sometimes there is a fee for duplicating records. Keep a list of what you send, because some items will have to be returned. If the second doctor’s opinion differs from that of the first doctor, a third opinion may be necessary.

At any time of day or night, you may think of questions you want answered. Many parents think of their questions late at night, when they are reviewing the day’s events. If you keep a notebook, you can write down the questions as they come to you. That way, when you next meet with your child’s physician, you will have a record of all the questions you need addressed. Take notes while getting a second opinion. It may also be helpful to bring along a trusted family member or friend who will also hear what is said. At treatment decision time, which can be emotionally stressful, two sets of ears are always better than one!

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