Getting a Second Opinion

Fight Colorectal Cancer strongly recommends that you consider a second, independent opinion from a multi-disciplinary team at a major cancer center:

  • Before beginning treatment
  • If you have a recurrence
  • If you are faced with a major treatment decision
  • If you want to hear another expert’s opinion about your diagnosis or treatment options
  • If you would like to learn more about clinical trials
  • If you want to feel certain that you’re on the right track

A second opinion may provide new options, the opportunity for a clinical trial or simply a chance to understand your diagnosis more clearly.

If the second opinion is the same as the first, great. If it’s different, you may want to check with a third expert to help you make your decision.

Steps to Get a Second Opinion

To prepare for conversations with other doctors or medical experts, gather copies of your labs, scans and surgical test results, and if possible, share this information with the second opinion expert before your appointment with him/her.

So, if possible try to schedule your second opinion before you start treatment.

  1. Locate a resource through NCI Cancer Centers Program
  2. Call for an appointment and ask what you need to bring to the appointment
  3. Arrange to have all your test results sent to the center
  4. Check on costs, insurance coverage, and, if required, precertification of the professional services with your insurance
  5. Remember to take someone with you to take notes

TIP: If you have any concerns about your pathology results, you can request a second pathologist to review your tumor biopsy. Pathology results are a piece of information that physicians use to base treatment recommendations.

Getting a second opinion doesn’t mean you need to change doctors. If the second opinion results in a different treatment, arrangements can usually be made for you to follow the plan at home. If you are treated at a major cancer center, you can usually receive follow-up care in your community.

Some patients and families are reluctant to seek a second opinion because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of their doctors or make them angry. Think about it like hiring a contractor to do a big home improvement project. If you’re not a contractor yourself, you get several bids to see what a variety of contractors think. Similarly, when you are facing major decisions, it makes sense to get more than one opinion. Doctors understand a good health care professional will always encourage you to find another opinion so that you feel comfortable about your care.

Download the Second Opinion Referrals Worksheet. 

Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board, February 2014

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