Listen to the Cancer.Net Podcast: Seeking a Second Opinion , adapted from this content.
Cancer is often a confusing and frightening diagnosis, and it is hard to make decisions about possible treatment. Because treatments are continually improving, it is important to find someone with experience in treating your type of cancer. Many people consider seeking the knowledge and advice of more than one doctor. This is called a second opinion. A second opinion is helpful when a doctor suspects or diagnoses cancer, or recommends a specific treatment plan.
Asking for a second opinion is common practice. The more knowledge you have about a particular diagnosis and the treatment options available, the more comfortable you will be regarding the health care decisions you will make.
A second opinion after diagnosis
A second opinion after the diagnosis can provide a great deal of information, such as:
- Confirmation of a diagnosis
- Additional details on the type and stage of cancer
- Other treatment options, in situations where the doctor disagrees with the original diagnosis
A second opinion before treatment
Seeking a second opinion before beginning treatment can also provide a great deal of information, such as:
- More information on the type of cancer, especially if the cancer is rare and knowledge is limited about the particular cancer or treatment
- Opinions from experts and specialists (such as radiologists or surgeons) who may have treated other patients with this cancer. Find a local cancer center or cooperative group .
- Clinical trials  (research studies involving people), especially if the doctor providing a second opinion is affiliated with a major cancer center
Paying for a second opinion
Most insurance providers pay for a second opinion when cancer is suspected or diagnosed. However, it's recommended that you ask about payment before seeking one. Be sure to ask if you're required to select from a specific group of doctors when seeking a second opinion. Some insurance providers even require a second opinion before they will pay for cancer treatment.
Finding a doctor for a second opinion
Let your doctor know if you wish to seek a second opinion. Most doctors fully understand the value of a second opinion and are not offended when patients seek one. They may even be able to suggest another doctor. If you need an oncologist in your area to consult for a second opinion, try searching the Find an Oncologist  database, a free database of ASCO members in the United States and abroad who have made their contact information public.
In some cases, seeking a second opinion from a specialist is very helpful, as there are many different types of oncologists . Other possible sources for finding a doctor are:
- Local hospitals, medical clinics, or cancer centers
- Medical schools and medical associations, such as the American Board of Medical Specialties , the American Medical Association , and the American College of Surgeons . All offer searchable databases of doctors.
- Friends and family
- Cancer organizations and patient advocates 
Once you locate a possible doctor for a second opinion, ask about the doctor's area of specialty and credentials, such as board certification, training, and experience. Make sure to bring all of your relevant medical records, including test results (including blood work and imaging tests, such as x-rays) and any related materials to the appointment. Often, the doctor providing a second opinion will request the results of any tests or procedures you have already had performed, eliminating repeat testing. Keeping track of these results may seem overwhelming. Cancer.Net has a variety of medical forms  you can download to help keep all your information organized.
During the consultation, you may wish to write down the information you learn so that you can go back to it later or take another person to help you remember the discussion with the doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask the doctor to explain something in more detail. It is important that you feel confident that you've made the best decision possible with the best information possible before deciding on treatment.
Newly Diagnosed 
Choosing a Doctor