By Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Updated February 29, 2016
Running your diagnosis by a second doctor is rarely a bad idea.

Running your diagnosis by a second doctor is rarely a bad idea.(DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES)Once your medical team has examined your test results and pathology report and recommended a particular course of treatment, you may decide to get an additional perspective. Second opinions are very common—some people get a third and even a fourth—but it's entirely your choice.

A second opinion may be recommended if:

  • Your treatment options are limited because you live in a remote area far from a large cancer center. In this case, you might seek a second opinion from a doctor at a major center.
  • You like a particular doctor but aren't sure about everything he or she is telling you.
  • You're not confident in your current doctor.

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"You're hiring this person to do a job for you and if this person isn't working with you, doesn't seem to be listening to you, or is pushing you to do something you don't want to do, get a second opinion," says Kate Clay, RN, program director of the Center for Shared Decision Making at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

A second opinion may not be needed if:You're already working with a major breast or cancer center that combines medical disciplines—surgery, oncology, radiation, and more, including social workers, nutritionists, and specialists in alternative therapies—and your case is being discussed by a multidisciplinary team of experts who you are comfortable with. There's probably not much reason to go to other institutions looking for a second opinion.

Keep in mind that there may be times when you won't have the opportunity to seek multiple opinions, especially if doing so would delay lifesaving treatment that you need right away.