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Second Opinions 101

What To Expect During A Visit With A Doctor Who Gives A Second Opinion

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A doctor who gives a second opinion will review all your medical records. The doctor may also give you a physical exam and ask questions to get information that isn't in the records. The doctor may even request additional tests.

Once the doctor feels secure that he or she has all necessary information, he or she will give you an unbiased opinion about your diagnosis, the treatment options available, and the doctor's suggested course of action.

Ask your questions about what the doctor is telling you, or about subjects of concern that the doctor doesn't raise. If there isn't time to cover them all, ask the doctor when you can see him or her again or call with the rest of your questions. (Some people prefer to ask questions in a fax or by e mail

Once you know what the second opinion doctor thinks about your situation: If it differs from what you've been told, ask the doctor about the differences and possible reasons for the differences. Asking after he or she gave an opinion rather than before will help keep the previous doctor's opinion from coloring the thoughts of the second opinion doctor.

You can even ask the doctor to speak with the doctor who gave the first opinion doctor to see if they can resolve their differences.

For more information, see How To Work Effectively With Your Doctors


  • Do not expect the doctor providing a second opinion to discuss the first doctor's competence.
  • Keep in mind that if things aren't clear after getting the second opinion, you can keep going to a third, fourth or even fifth opinion. Just don't let the quest for certainty become an excuse to delay getting treatment. 
  • If you decide that you prefer that the second opinion doctor become your treating doctor, see our information in "To Learn More" about how to switch doctors.

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