When Women Should Seek a Second Opinion
In our society, women are generally conditioned to “play nice” and work well with others. Unfortunately, this can easily translate into failing to be assertive and advocate for ourselves when it is needed.
I recently was asked to do some research about obtaining a second opinion for a friend looking into treatment options. While I was investigating, I came across a profound website and video called “Give me a Second” which clearly and provocatively illustrates the reluctance of many women to seek additional opinions when faced with a serious medical treatment decision.
According to the website, seven conditions that for which women should absolutely seek a second opinion include:
- A diagnosis of cancer, especially breast or gynecological
- Heart Condition/recommendation for bypass surgery
- Diagnosis of a brain tumor
- Unresolved menstrual/gynecological problems
- Autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Varicose Veins
Although these conditions vary in severity, they have a commonality – there are substantial variations in the recommended treatments for each, ranging from the minimally invasive to the more conservative and aggressive. Each approach has its own risks and benefits which need to be taken into consideration with each individual’s own specific diagnosis and preferences. There is never a one-size fits all treatment for any medical condition.
Why are people so reluctant to pursue a second opinion? The reasons range from fear of delaying treatment for even a day or a week, to concern of disappointing or angering the initial doctor, to simply being uncomfortable speaking up for ourselves. Unfortunately, not all doctors respond positively when advised that their patient wants a second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan, and not everyone is aware that the option of speaking with another doctor even exists.
But in the case of the conditions listed above, and many others, seeking a second opinion may be a life-saving move.
CancerGuide.org provides a comprehensive summary on seeking and evaluating a second opinion for cancer diagnoses and treatment planning. You can also look at the fact sheet from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Having more than one opinion from specialists in the field can make the patient more confident that the diagnosis and treatment regimen is the correct one for them, creating a more positive and trust-based relationship between the patient and care providers.
Guest editor: Debora Harvey, Patient Navigator LLC