Introduction to Online Second Opinions

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A second opinion can provide greater confidence in the initial recommendations made by your provider or it can help avoid the wrong treatment being provided in the first place.

“What do you mean the tumor my last doctor removed was cancer? I was told it wouldn’t be cancer. What do you mean some of the cancer is still in my leg? What’s going to happen to me?”

These questions are heard all too often by providers who treat people with bone and soft tissue tumors. I helped countless people in this exact situation. Despite years of training and experience, doctors, like all humans, can be wrong. When the condition is particularly rare, as is the case with soft tissue and bone tumors, the chances that excellent providers may make a mistake because of unfamiliarity with the situation is increased. In many instances, the best chance for the best outcome from treatment happens with the initial treatment. Sometimes when the first treatment isn’t the ideal treatment, more invasive methods are needed to try and salvage the situation and sometimes the risk for the cancer returning are increased because of the first treatment. This is why it is so important for that first treatment to be appropriate and correct.

Obtaining a second opinion is one very important way in which people can improve the likelihood of receiving the appropriate treatment from the start. Confirmation that the diagnosis is correct and the planned treatment is appropriate through discussion with an expert in the field is critically important, particularly in situations where either the diagnosis or the treatment are of significance. The necessity of this is shown by recent research from the Mayo Clinic in which a second opinion rendered by a specialty expert agreed with the initial provider’s diagnosis in only 12% of 286 cases. The American Cancer Society has recommended obtaining a second opinion from another doctor in order to ensure all options have been presented to allow for fully informed treatment choices. Such an opinion is especially important

  • if the diagnosis or treatment are not familiar to the physician
  • it seems there may be additional treatment options which are not being discussed or considered
  • there is uncertainty regarding either the diagnosis or treatment planned
  • there is difficulty with the patient-physician relationship, to name but a few reasons.

Ultimately, a provider should not hesitate to not only embrace but also assist their patients in obtaining a second opinion.

There can be several barriers to asking for or obtaining a second opinion, including:

  • Concern over insulting the primary provider
  • Lack of knowledge regarding where to obtain the second opinion
  • Cost related to the second opinion

Given the importance of the diagnosis and initial treatment, concern over insulting the primary provider should not be a factor. This can be one of the most important treatments over the course of life and ensuring everything possible is done to have the best chance for the best outcome is entirely appropriate. Finding a provider to obtain a second opinion can be facilitated through online searches of professional organizations in the area of interest. Cost related to obtaining the second opinion can now be reduced through the utilization of online second opinions. In many instances the online second opinion can provide several additional benefits, including obtaining the opinion from one’s own home, scheduling on one’s own time and not that of another provider, and potentially less reluctance on the part of the initial provider as the online opinion frequently does not introduce direct competition.

Once a decision has been made to obtain a second opinion, there are several ways to ensure the second opinion is as helpful as possible

  • Have all relevant medical records available in advance of the second opinion
  • Ask providers how they determined their opinions
  • Ask providers to reconcile other opinions that have been presented
  • Request that the providers discuss the case amongst themselves

In addition, individuals can promote their own health and be the strongest possible advocate for their own health by maintaining their own records.

The second opinion can be a crucial component of obtaining the best possible care, particularly for important diagnoses and treatment decisions. There should be no hesitation to request a second opinion and careful consideration should be taken towards a provider who is reluctant to have their patients pursue such an opinion. Once the second opinion is obtained, adjustments can be made as needed to the treatment plan or other options can be pursued.

For those interested in pursuing a second opinion related to the diagnosis and management of benign or malignant bone and soft tissue tumors or Orthopaedic diagnoses, please visit for more information.

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