When To Get A Second Opinion On Your Test Results

By: Rachael Rettner
Published: April 15, 2015 06:49pm ET

Actress Rita Wilson attributes the early diagnosis of her breast cancer to the fact that she got a second opinion, a step that experts say is particularly important when the consequences of a medical test or treatment are serious.

Wilson revealed this week that she underwent a double mastectomy as treatment for invasive breast cancer, according to a statement in People Magazine. But her diagnosis came only after she sought a second opinion — her initial test result showed no cancer.

“I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health. You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen,” Wilson said in the statement. Wilson also sought a third opinion before undergoing her breast cancer treatment.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, an associate professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine (who was not involved in treating Wilson), agreed about the importance of second opinions. In circumstances in which a diagnosis or treatment could have serious effects on a patient, seeking a second opinion may be necessary, she said.

“There are many opportunities where people should ask for a second opinion,” such as when they want to confirm a cancer diagnosis, or are considering whether to have extensive surgery, Mishori said.

In particular, tests that might require a second opinion are those that rely on human interpretation, such as a mammogram or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, Mishori said.

As with anything in life, “there are mistakes made” when experts interpret medical test results, Mishori said. A doctor’s skill level, his or her years of experience, and the technology available could all be reasons why an error occurs, she said. [<a target="_blank" —> Read More