Getting a Second Opinion About Your Cancer Care

Most people seek opinions from experts when it comes to important matters, such as finances, children’s education, or a major purchase.

Why not do so when it comes to your cancer treatment?

a doctor with a patientOnce you have your diagnosis and treatment plan, it may be wise to seek advice from an oncologist at a different hospital. These second opinions are often covered by insurance (but check with your insurance company first).

Here are some benefits to seeking a second opinion from a major cancer center, such as Dana-Farber:

  1. By the time you see the second doctor, you’ve had time to process the fact that you have cancer. You’ve weighed your options and come up with more questions.
  2. A major cancer center has experts in your specific type of cancer. A general oncologist takes care of many kinds of cancer, while a specialist only sees leukemia, or breast cancer, for example, and might have more experience in your type.
  3. A major cancer center might be conducting research in your type of cancer, and can offer an added perspective on the latest treatment options.

Seeking a second opinion does not mean you have to transfer your care to the experts you consult with. In fact, the second doctor often verifies the first doctor’s plan. But at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing you’re on the right road.

“We have very strong relationships with local oncologists,” says Ann LaCasce, MD, a specialist in lymphoma. “If a patient chooses not to come here, I can stay in the loop and be available for questions.”

Ann LaCasce, MD
Ann LaCasce, MD

Although some patients are reluctant to seek a second opinion for fear of hurting their doctor’s feelings, most clinicians support the practice. “If my patients express an interest in a second opinion, I encourage them, and will even suggest someone to see,” says LaCasce.

Sometimes, the second opinion does differ from the first, giving you more options to weigh. You may need to circle back to your original oncologist for further discussion or seek a third opinion. But overall, second opinions allow doctors to help one another AND their patients, offering benefits to everyone.

10 responses to “Getting a Second Opinion About Your Cancer Care

  1. That’s what I did, best thing I did. Both of my oncologists are awesome! They respect each other and have no problem discussing my case and collaborating on big decisions. They keep me in the loop and get right back to me. We are a team and all my other doctors are included. Everyone should get a second opinion.

  2. A second opinion for cancer treatment options and care is crucial. Just as you would bring your car to a transmission specialist for transmission problems rather than a general mechanic, it makes sense to look for a oncologist specialist who knows your particular cancer. It’s no secret that DFCI has the very best!

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  3. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in February 2009. I have had two autologous stem cell transplants, am doing Velcade and Doxil currently. Have done Revlimid and Pomalyst. My oncologist says I am running out of treatment options. I would like to have my oncologist send my medical records to you for a second opinion. How do I go about doing that? Thank you for your help.

  4. Not only are 2nd opinions vital but.also responding to questions on a hospitals website.which i never got. Generally speaking, why do you guys not have a SUBSTANTIAL part of any chemo care,aregime of nutritionthar not only replenishes.good. cells that have been slaughteref by chemo but also minimize sugar and drive that point home since cancer cells are fueld by blood and sugar? There is virtually.nothing new.except hammer chemo untilthe patient almost dies from the chemo.alone, mix in some localized radiation and do surgery whetever possible! Its been that way for decades and its time that cancer centers such as yours raise and include nutrition as a key factor in treatment!

    1. Dear John —

      Thank you for your comment. Good nutrition is important before, during, and after cancer treatment. The Dana-Farber Nutrition Services team can help plan meals, provide healthy recipes, and offer tips on how to combat some treatment side effects. Our Eating Well During Cancer video series also provides information on how a diet can support your health and well being during and after cancer treatment.

      If you are looking for healthy recipes for cancer patients, check out our recipe library or our smartphone app.

      If you have any questions about healthy eating or nutrition for cancer patients, make sure to reach out through our Ask the Nutritionist page.

      I hope this is helpful and wish you the best.

  5. Hi, I have more a question than a comment. My other has been given a Cancer diagnosis which over the past week the doctors have brought up possible surgery to treat at the beginning but now a week later are saying it it not treatable and speaking of hospice and or nursing homes. No one can even tell me what type of cancer it is and I am not satisfied with the lack of treatment options and feel I need a 2nd opinion. My mothers treatment team has given me 24hours to make this choice as she can not stay at the hospital. My question is if Dana Fabar will take my mom as a transfer to their hospital and evaluate her condition and give treatment options.

    1. Dear Christian —

      I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s health trouble. The procedure to get a second opinion at Dana-Farber is the same as becoming a new patient. If your mother is able to come to Boston to meet with our treatment team, please call 877-442-DFCI (877-442-3324) or fill out this online appointment request form:

      If your mother is not able to travel to Boston, Dana-Farber offers a program called Online Specialty Consults, which allows patients and physicians to confer with our specialists online about second opinions, treatment options, or clinical trials.

      Your mother will need to involve her local physician, who will register with the service and complete a patient history. One of our specialists, who will be chosen depending on your mother’s particular medical background, will review her case and then send a consultation report back to your mother’s physician.
      These links provide an overview of the process:

      I hope this is helpful. Wishing you all the best.

  6. I have metastatic breast cancer triple negative at age 51 . Dx dec 2016 . Abraxane just failed me and pet scan showed new growth . How do I get a phone consult with someone well versed in this type cancer or a person to person consult . What do I need to do ?

    1. Hi Courtney,

      Thank you for your message. We are sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

      Unfortunately, we cannot provide any medical advice without a consultation. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with us, please read the information below.

      If you’re able to come to Boston to meet with our breast cancer treatment team, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out this online appointment request form:

      If you’re unable to travel to Boston, Dana-Farber offers the Online Second Opinion Program, which allows patients to get an expert second opinion from a Dana-Farber oncologist, without traveling to Boston.

      The Online Second Opinion program is secure, convenient, and confidential. The entire process is conducted online – including collecting your records – helping you avoid disruptions to their regular schedule, while also saving on travel and lodging costs in Boston.

      These links provide an overview of the process: (web section) (account open)

      Wishing you the best,

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