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Second opinions on diagnoses and 3 times when you should get them

If you have been diagnosed with a debilitating, life-threatening illness and are facing expensive, life-altering treatments, it's important that you trust your doctor implicitly. Even if you trust your doctor, human error may be an issue in creating a treatment plan. Some patients opt for a second opinion to determine if the treatment is the right course of action. You should always feel comfortable asking for a second opinion, and here is when to do it.

1. You feel your concerns aren't being addressed

Doctors spent a lot of time in school and training learning how to diagnose and treat common illnesses, and they may get into a pattern that creates tunnel vision, blocking alternate treatment options that may work for your condition. Per research done by the CDC, doctors only spend 20 minutes with each patient in an exam room, and it can be difficult to have your concerns heard when there are constant interruptions by other medical professionals, computer use or the doctor. If you feel you aren't being heard when communicating your symptoms, concerns or health history, it's a good idea to seek a second opinion.

2. It's recommended that you have a serious surgery that isn't an emergency

While some surgeries are risk-free, every operation has inherent risks that can't be avoided. As a patient, you should feel comfortable about any surgeries that are recommended. Sometimes there are alternatives to major surgeries such as hysterectomies, tumor removals and even heart bypass, even when your doctor insists that this is the best option. At these times, a second medical opinion would be helpful.

3. You are uncomfortable with a treatment plan or diagnosis

Researchers estimate that close to 12 million adults are misdiagnosed by their health care professional each year, and close to half of the mistakes could have serious negative effects on the body. No matter how good your doctor is or how much you trust him or her, there is a chance he or she may make a mistake on your diagnosis and treatment. You know your body better than anyone else, and you should always feel confident and comfortable with your treatment plan. If your physician insists on a plan that you are uncomfortable with, it's time to seek a second opinion.

Asking for a second opinion

Because it's your body and the effects of misdiagnosis will be with you for the rest of your life, you have every right to ask for a second opinion. If you have been misdiagnosed or had treatment you didn't need, an attorney may be able to answer any questions you have about your options.

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