|Knowing When to Get a Second Doctor’s Opinion|
|Wednesday, 21 July 2010 02:16|
Knowing When to Get a Second Doctor’s Opinion. You won’t often hear doctors say it, but medicine is not an exact science. Not all diseases are clear-cut and easy to diagnose. Not all patients with the same condition will experience the same symptoms. Some diseases can show symptoms so subtle or confusing even the most experienced of doctors can be baffled.
And let’s face it, doctors are only human and can make mistakes. Oversights may be made when a doctor is presented with incomplete facts, driving him to make the wrong diagnosis and treatment plans. Other times, a specialist’s opinion is needed for more insight into the disease. Occasionally, some medical facilities lack resources and may need a more sophisticated setting for investigating the disease.
That is why patients should become active partners in their own health care. They also have the duty to disclose all their symptoms, medications taken, and prior medical consultations done. A complete medical history will help avoid an erroneous diagnosis.
Another aspect of becoming a proactive patient is getting a second opinion from another physician about your condition, if necessary.
WHY GET A SECOND OPINION?
Though it may be costly and time-consuming, getting a second opinion can be beneficial to you in many ways.
1. It allows the confirmation or refutation of the diagnosis previously made. If the diagnosis is confirmed, the second opinion can help erase all your doubts and give you peace of mind. If it is refuted, then a third opinion is necessary, especially for serious conditions.
2. It gives you a different perspective on your condition. Some doctors are more aggressive than others. Some may recommend a tried-and-tested treatment option; others may advise a newer, more promising option. Either way, you get to know all your available treatment options. You will be making an informed choice – a choice of the best care based on prudence and educated decisions.
Most patients trust their doctors implicitly and will agree with everything they are told. Others may feel the need to verify elsewhere before agreeing to have anything done.
WHEN TO GET A SECOND OPINION?
Here are a few situations when it is pressing that you do ask for a second opinion.
1. When you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. No one wants to hear a diagnosis of cancer. More often than not, people who are told by their doctor that they have a terminal illness go through a phase of denial when they are pretty sure the diagnosis is wrong – and sometimes they may be right.
Going through cancer treatment is an act of courage. It is physically, emotionally, and financially draining, not only for the patient, but for the family as well. Different types of cancer require different forms of treatment. It is therefore essential that the diagnosis is correct from the start.
Some inflammatory conditions in the brain can masquerade as brain tumors, making it difficult sometimes to tell them apart even on biopsy. The treatment for one is radically different from the treatment for the other, so the right diagnosis must be made before any treatment starts. Soft tissue tumors are also hard to differentiate. Benign (non-cancerous) masses can be so large and cause disturbing symptoms so akin to those of cancer that mistakes are not impossible.
In these cases, ask your doctor if the diagnosis is unassailable. If he is not absolutely certain, or if it is “an unusual and rare case,” then a second opinion is an option before you agree to any treatment. You could get your biopsy slides read by a different pathologist, preferably a specialist in your condition. Ask for your medical records, complete with whatever diagnostic tests have already been done, and bring them to another specialist in our condition. All records and data must be taken as a whole to place the diagnosis in perspective.
2. When you are diagnosed with a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment, such as connective tissue diseases and neurologic diseases.
Connective tissue diseases are varied. Among the more common ones are rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Less frequently seen include Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, polymyositis, and dermatomysitis. These autoimmune diseases usually affect multiple organs. Medications range from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents to steroids and immunosuppressive drugs. Some of these medicines have a lot of toxic side effects, of which a few may be potentially life-threatening.
Diagnoses must be confirmed for chronic diseases since treatment is extensive and often lifelong. Before agreeing to a specific treatment regimen, check that you received the right diagnosis. Another doctor’s take on your case may help quell any uneasiness and increase your compliance with the therapy.
3. When you require surgery or other invasive procedures. Anytime you are told to undergo a serious surgical procedure, a second opinion may be a good move. These procedures include brain or heart surgery or removal of any organ.
It is best to know all your options prior to making a decision. Be aware of alternatives, especially the less invasive ones. Be sure that the recommended procedure is really what you require. Different doctors’ opinions can provide a fresher outlook to help you in decision-making.
As a general rule, be slightly wary of doctors who are quick to advice immediate surgery without telling you all the other treatments available, including your non-surgical options.
Source: Times News World