Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Getting a second opinion

Getting a second opinion is an important way for you to participate in your health care. Some people are afraid that they will hurt their doctor’s feelings if they get a second opinion. Most doctors will actually recommend another doctor for a second opinion.

If your doctor is unable to recommend a colleague for a second opinion, then you can always take one or more of the following steps to get in touch with another doctor:

  • Call the patient referral coordinator at VCU Massey Cancer Center at (804) 828-5116.
  • Call VCU Massey Cancer Center's Patient Resource Library at (804) 828-8709 or (804) 828-0450.
  • Call the Cancer Information Service at (800) 4-CANCER. A trained cancer information specialist can recommend places for you to call for second opinions in your area.
  • Ask for the Directory of Medical Specialists or the American Medical Association’s Medical Directory at your local library.
  • Call the Medicare/Medicaid Hotline at (800) 638-6833 for a listing of cancer specialists in your area.

If you decide to get a second opinion...

When you get in touch with the second doctor, he or she will ask about your medical history, your current medical reports and any laboratory test results. (Sometimes it is possible for your doctor to send all of these records directly to the second doctor. Other times you might be able to take the records to the second doctor yourself.)

If the second doctor disagrees with your doctor’s opinion, then here are some steps that may help you make a decision:

  • Ask the two doctors to discuss your case and try to arrive at an agreement about the best treatment. If they still do not agree, then you may want to contact a third doctor.
  • Ask each doctor to write a simple, easy-to-understand opinion for you. Make sure that your doctor includes clinical research evidence to support his or her opinion.
  • Ask the doctors to clarify what you do not understand. Both doctors should be willing to take the time to answer all of your questions.
  • Discuss your options with members of your family and friends.
  • Call an organization that can put you into contact with people who have had your kind of cancer; their experiences might be helpful to you in deciding what to do. If you are not sure which organization to call, call VCU Massey Cancer Center's Patient Resource Library at (804) 828-8709 or (804) 828-0450 for help.