Second Opinions

Cancer is a frightening diagnosis, and the recommended choices for treatment may be complex and difficult for a patient to evaluate.

Your rights

You are entitled to a complete explanation of any diagnosis or proposed therapy. You, and only you, can weigh your options and make a choice among alternatives for treatment. Many times the best course is to find a second opinion, and many patients seem relieved to learn that this is an accepted practice. In most cases, your physician will encourage you to learn as much as you can about your disease.

Working with your physician

Whether you received your initial opinion here or at another institution, the staff at Dartmouth Cancer Center is committed to providing second opinions as requested. In every case, the NCCC will work with your own physician to ensure you receive the best possible medical advice.

Kinds of second opinions

At Dartmouth Cancer Center, you may obtain a second opinion from an individual specialist or from a group of professionals that will include experts in diagnosing and treating the kind of cancer you have. You may also wish to obtain a second opinion on your pathology report. This is the report on which your first-opinion physician based recommendations for your care.

Your responsibility

It is your responsibility to forward all your medical records, tests, and X-rays from your first opinion to the second opinion physician or group. Please be certain these records are received by the physician well in advance of your appointment, so he or she has time to review them. This will save time, and prevent duplication of tests with additional costs.

How to use the second opinion

If the first opinion is confirmed by the second opinion, you can be confident that the recommended diagnosis and treatment are appropriate for your condition. If the two opinions differ, it is important to seek full explanations of the opinions given. Your primary care physician can help you decide upon the best course of action after considering the conflicting recommendations.

Your decision

As the patient facing a serious medical problem, you have to make decisions about accepting or refusing recommended treatments. It is important for you to feel confident about the information you use to make decisions. A second opinion can help increase your confidence about the choices you make.


Many insurers require advance notice of second opinions in order to trigger reimbursement. Please check the requirements in your own policy.