After Marci Smith was told she had a malignant brain tumor, she had surgery and then made an appointment with an oncologist to receive chemotherapy and radiation. But Smith never kept that appointment.

A nagging voice inside her head told her to get a second opinion. In the end, that voice is the reason Smith is getting the right treatment.

Here are five diagnoses in which patients should seek a second opinion, according to experts.

1. Heart bypass surgery

“Anytime you’re considering a procedure that has a risk of dying, stroke and severe infection, you should get a second opinion.”

2. Hysterectomy

Sometimes doctors recommend surgical removal of the uterus for bleeding or pelvic pain when the uterus isn’t the problem at all.

3. Pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality

Sometimes parents choose to terminate a pregnancy when the fetus has a severe abnormality — but they should make sure they have the right diagnosis before they do it.

4. Surgery for varicose veins

There are so many different treatment options for varicose veins, it’s best to get a second opinion.

5. Treatments for brain tumors

As Smith learned, the wrong brain tumor diagnosis could lead to the wrong treatment. The diagnosis depends largely on the pathologist reading a slide — and mistakes can happen.

Read the whole article. Sensible stuff.

  1. Misanthropic Scott says:

    It’s generally best to just assume that people in all professions in the U.S. have about the same average level of competency for their profession. There are always some good and some bad,. The average is about the same though.

    It really doesn’t matter whether the profession is of the “would you like fries with that?” variety or the “you have a brain tumor” variety. The average level of competency is the same.

    It is true that some jobs require a higher level of skill. So, the average level of skill or intelligence may be higher in some professions. But, the average level of competency for that profession remains, IMHO, about the same.

    So, the proportion of times you get the wrong order is probably similar to the proportion of times you’ll get the wrong diagnosis. Just as easier orders are easier to get right, some things will be easier to diagnose.

    So, in cases where one presents with extreme thirst, frequent urination, nausea, and your blood is noticeably thicker and tests to a blood glucose of 800 (7 times normal), the doctor will likely correctly diagnose diabetes.

    If your case is obvious, and treatment is undisputed, one opinion is likely enough. Or, if you have a doctor you trust tremendously, you may also not need another opinion. In other cases, remember, you may be trusting the doctor with your life, quite literally. This may be a bad idea.

  2. god says:

    My biggest concern has always been with the doctors so self-assured they ask hardly any questions. Once or twice, I’ve wasted a heck of a lot of time and money on simpler diagnoses – once I moved on to someone who specialized in the area of concern.

    Even then, I was in a situation a few years back, involving a basic diagnosis – where the physician had completed a convoluted analysis – and just before leaving the office I happened to mention one seemingly unrelated (to me) symptom and he changed the whole diagnosis. To one btw which was handled by OTC medication at a tenth the cost of where he was going originally.

  3. James Hill says:

    Another thought: When getting a second opinion, try to limit the second doctor’s access to the information used by the first doctor. Have X-rays, MRIs, etc. taken a second time, and try to use a doctor at a different hospital (preferably owned by a different company).

  4. Misanthropic Scott says:

    #3 – James Hill,

    Good points!! Unfortunately, if money is a consideration, the health insurance may not pay for repeated labs and x-rays.

  5. Janet St. James says:

    “Pregnancy termination?” We can’t even say “abortion” anymore?

  6. Kevin says:

    Also as a health care worker consider second opinions for any of the TOP killers of people. HEART PROBLEMS, CANCER PROBLEMS, DIABETES PROBLEMS. It is a low risk for a doctor to have a FALSE POSITIVE diagnosys; because treatment for non-existant disease, or mis-diagnosed disease is rarely caught . So the effect on medical care is that we have a whole lot of FALSE POSITIVE diagnosys.

  7. iGlobalWarmer says:

    #1 – 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.

    If it’s not an emergency, it doesn’t hurt to try and check your providers through sites like these:

  8. god says:

    #6 – have you had punctuation courses with ECA?

  9. iGlobalWarmer says:

    #8 – Kevin’s capitalization is grouped, not semi-random.

  10. James Hill says:

    #4 – That’s a great point. Through an issue my wife went through two years ago, I found that the system can be worked… to an extent… by getting a drone at the insurance company to accidently agree to treatment by a doctor that is in your plan at a hospital that isn’t in your plan. Doctors usually work out of multiple locations, and getting a second option at a hospital that isn’t covered should get everything reworked on the insurance company’s tab (once you get them to admit their mistake).

  11. Rob says:

    I’m not clear on why this article is captioned with a picture of Steve Ballmer being clinically treated after his chair-throwing episode. No second opinion was needed in that case.

  12. Gary Marks says:

    Interesting discussion, and it raises another question for our health care system. How skewed are the various statistical cure rates for diseases? Those statistics become polluted with bad data whenever the treatment outcome for a false-positive diagnosis is counted as a full cure. At the risk of sounding skeptical, some companies might even find this beneficial, and I’ll bet I don’t even have to be a name-dropper here.

    #11 Rob, your reference highlights one of the recent failures of health care. Ballmer survived and the chair did not, while the reverse would clearly have been preferable 😉

  13. joshua says:

    #7…..yep…50% did graduate at the bottom half…..but the really scary figure is the …..what percent are in that class due to *affirmative action*… 🙂

  14. Mr. Fusion says:

    Bullcrap !!!

    Yes mistakes happen. When an article like this though doesn’t post any statistics to suggest the frequency then it is just a scare tactic. It usually isn’t too difficult to find a single anecdotal case to bolster a bullcrap argument.

    How often do coronary by-pass patients NOT need their by-passes? Well, there are two tests that must be done, first to find the problem and then to locate the vessel with the clog. Both tests are usually done by highly trained and qualified physicians. So, how many times do they insist a patient needs a by-pass unnecessarily? Not too often since the test readouts are kept and seen by the cardiologist, hospital internist, the technician, and the surgeon.

    Poor journalism. Sillier people for falling into the trap.

  15. Misanthropic Scott says:

    #12 – Bob,

    Of course average isn’t good enough. I thought that was pretty clear from my post. Actually, top 25% is usually barely good enough for mission critical financial computer applications. I’d want top 5% or better for a life threatening condition. How to get that is a difficult question. Proper self-management of your case does help a lot. Having at least one really good doctor you trust and getting recommendations from him/her also helps a lot.

  16. snorkelbuddy says:

    A similar thing happened to me. An eye doctor told me I had a disease that would render me sightless within 2 years and that it was hereditary. Since no one in my family on either side has ever had this disease, I went to another eye doctor, who told me my eyesight sucked, but my eyes were healthy.

  17. Mr. Fusion says:


    An eye doctor told me

    Was that an Eye Doctor, a medical doctor, specializing in the treatment of ocular disorders or one of those guys who prescribe eye glasses?


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