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.