When should you get a second opinion?

When should you get a second opinion?

A 2010 poll shows that a majority of Americans don’t seek a second opinion on a medical diagnosis. The fact is that a serious diagnosis for you or a loved one can send your world into tailspin, and a second opinion could help right the ship.

According to Dr. Adam Rubinstein, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., “Second opinions can help make a diagnosis, confirm a diagnosis or offer different options for treatment. Patients need to understand that they always have the right to ask for a second opinion from another provider, regardless of the problem.”

Still, many patients may feel uncomfortable seeking another opinion. Dr. Rubinstein suggests that they need to get over it and understand that their health comes first.

“Patients have the right to be informed consumers. I have always felt that physicians have no right to express dismay or disappointment to patients who choose to seek a second opinion from another provider.”

Obviously, in the case of urgent or emergency surgery situations, it’s not a good idea to seek further advice. However, Dr. Rubinstein advises “a second opinion for any major surgery. I consider that to be a surgery that requires general anesthesia or more than one night in the hospital. I also advise a second opinion for a cancer diagnosis.”

Specifically, when it comes to a diagnosis of breast cancer, a second opinion can be very helpful. According to BreastCancer.org, you may want to seek a second opinion on a breast cancer diagnosis for the following reasons:

  • Your doctor is not a breast cancer specialist.
  • Your doctor tells you there is uncertainty about the type or extent of the breast cancer you have.
  • Your doctor gives you a few different treatment options.
  • You’re having trouble understanding and communicating with your doctor, and/or you want your options explained by someone else.
  • You have a less common or even rare type of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the nipple, that doctors don’t see very often.
  • You’re doubting the accuracy of the first opinion, or you feel that all options have not been explored.
  • Your health insurance plan requires a second opinion before having a particular treatment.

Dr. Rubinstein suggests a few extra tips when seeking a second opinion.

“Visit both doctors and discuss your case,” he states. “Bring someone else to write down the information or advice that’s being provided in each circumstance. Then, after visiting both doctors, imagine that one of the complications you have been warned about actually does occur. Which of the two doctors you visited would you feel most comfortable to hear that from? Which physician would you feel most secure partnering with for long-term treatment? That is usually the provider to choose.”

Related Posts



  1. As physicians it is incumbent upon us to discuss treatment options and the risks of each with patients, so to use that as a reason for a patient to obtain a second opinion is unnecessary.

  2. Second opinions help prevent wrong treatments from misdiagnosis and the additional information you gain can also help the patient in selecting the best treatment plan which will make the patient more confident in the treatment which can also have a positive effect on their recovery.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.