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“I liked what he said a lot better,” Bill remembers. “He looked at the same MRI that I showed the first neurosurgeon. He said that acoustic neuromas are typically not fast-growing, so rather than go in quickly to remove it, he wanted to watch it for another six months and get a repeat MRI, then see me back in the office.”

Six months and another MRI later, Bill returned to the second neurosurgeon for the follow-up appointment. Though Bill’s symptoms had improved since that first visit, he was understandably anxious.

The neurosurgeon greeted us cordially and put Bill’s MRI on the light box.

“That’s interesting,” he said. “It’s gone. The tumor is gone.”

• • •

Bill’s story is true and it reveals a universal truth in healthcare: Whenever you get a diagnosis that is serious or life-threatening, you should get a second opinion. Studies have shown that getting a second opinion alters the diagnosis 30% of the time.

Your doctor would get a second opinion, if he or she were the patient. Yet only 20% of patients do. Why? It’s usually a combination of things: Fear. Confusion. Inertia. Concern about offending the doctor. And lack of knowledge on how to proceed.

On top of all that, this decision must be made at a time when you are under enormous stress. You’ve just been told by your physician that you have cancer. You’ve been told that you need surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Your world, your life as you know it, has been turned upside down. All you want to do is “get it out.”

The thought of getting a second opinion — and the time and energy that goes into it — is overwhelming and frankly, not a priority. Who would you go to, anyway? You are focused on beating cancer and you want to start that battle right away! Full speed ahead!

Most of our patients tell us that they not only don’t know who to go to for a second opinion, they haven’t a clue how to make it happen.

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