We trust doctors, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers to provide us with meaningful information and recommendations for how to remain healthy and live longer. When we get a disease, we expect them to treat it. And when we have ambiguous symptoms, we expect them to give us a meaningful diagnosis.

But sometimes, diagnosis and treatment recommendations from doctors aren’t perfectly reliable. In this scenario, it’s wise to get a second opinion. But when exactly is a second opinion appropriate, and what should motivate you to get one?

Why a Second Opinion Is Valuable

Getting a second opinion can be valuable for many reasons.

First, symptoms aren’t always clear. Chest pain could mean anything from a basic episode of heartburn to a rare disease like pleural mesothelioma. Competent doctors can easily diagnose diseases that have clear and unambiguous symptoms, but in some cases, even the best experts may have trouble pinning down exactly what’s wrong with you. If multiple doctors are in agreement, this can increase your confidence that the diagnosis is correct.

Second, doctors aren’t perfect. Even the most seasoned experts and brilliant physicians are capable of making mistakes. The best doctors in the world will confirm this, acknowledging their own capacity for error and recommending second opinions frequently.

Third, peace of mind is invaluable. Even if you fully trust your doctor, you’ll feel more confident and secure in having a second opinion that validates the first one.

The Costs of Getting a Second Opinion

The costs of getting a second opinion are largely going to depend on your insurance coverage. In many cases, getting a second opinion will be fully or almost fully covered. In other cases, you may be forced to pay a few hundred dollars out of pocket.

Even if the latter is the case, it’s often worth pursuing a second opinion; a second opinion could save you thousands of dollars in medical expenses or, even better, save your life.

Some people are reluctant to get a second opinion because they feel it undermines their trust in their existing doctor, or the medical industry as a whole. But remember, many doctors recommend second opinions even if they have full confidence in their own abilities; there’s nothing untrusting or wrong with getting an opinion from someone else.

When to Get a Second Opinion

There are some cases when getting a second opinion is especially valuable.

For example:

· Your doctor recommends a second opinion. Sometimes, your doctor will specifically recommend that you get a second opinion. If this is the case, trust their expertise. This usually means that this physician is uncertain about what they’re recommending or that they want you to feel confident about moving forward with a specific decision.

· You have a rare diagnosis. It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion if you’ve been given a rare diagnosis. Just because something is rare doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you to have – but there’s nothing wrong with being a bit skeptical. If you have been diagnosed with a one-in-a-million disease, another doctor should be able to validate that. If they can’t, you should be dubious.

· You’ve been diagnosed with cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to get a second opinion. Cancer symptoms are often subtle, and it’s not always clear if a cancerous development is present. On top of that, treating cancer is usually a long, expensive, and intensive process, so you’ll want to be absolutely sure before moving forward.

· You’re facing expensive or risky treatments. If you’re facing any kind of expensive or risky treatment, a second opinion is usually worth getting. You may be able to pursue an alternative treatment path – or at least feel confident that these forthcoming investments and risks are worth it.

· You have specific doubts or concerns. Also, if you have any specific doubts or concerns about your interactions with your primary doctor, there’s nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. For example, if you feel like your doctor is overlooking something, or if the information you get contradicts something you already know, it’s worth consulting with another professional.

· You simply want another perspective. Sometimes, something just feels off. If you have no motivation for seeking a second opinion other than just getting another perspective, that’s fine too. There’s practically no downside and unlimited upside, so try not to overthink the decision.

The bottom line here is this: getting a second opinion is relatively inexpensive and convenient, and it’s usually worth getting if you have any concerns or doubts about your initial diagnosis or treatment plan.

Don’t hesitate to seek the opinions and advice of other experts in the healthcare industry.