Why and when you should ask for a second medical opinion

DENVER -- A recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that 88% of patients referred by a primary care doctor to their internal medicine division, had their original diagnosis changed or refined.

That number is significant to local doctor, Eric Liu, of the Sarah Cannon Research Institute at Presbyterian St. Lukes’s Medical Center in Denver.

“Making the right diagnosis is the only way you can get the right treatment,” he said.

He believes patients need to be their best advocates, and push for a second opinion if they feel they need it.

“No one knows your body better than you do, and you can tell that something is not right. Don`t be afraid to ask again. Don`t be afraid to ask other people,” Dr. Liu said.

That’s something Loretta Warren believes as well.

She was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease or gerd, when she had abdominal pain and trouble eating.

When she demanded a second opinion, she had exploratory surgery, and doctors found a carcinoid in her small intestines.

She’s doing better now that she is in the care of Dr. Liu. Her advice to other patients is “to trust yourself. If you are not feeling well, and nothing they are giving you makes you feel better, then ask someone else,” Warren said.

Experts say there are three times when you should seek a second opinion:

  • If your symptoms persist even after treatment
  • If your doctor recommends a serious, but non-emergency surgery
  • If you feel like you just aren’t being heard.

Of course you will need to check with your insurance company to make sure a second opinion is covered. Some plans require referral.