Deciding on a doctor to see when ill is not easy especially in Nigeria where having a personal primary care physician is not common. The coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme is said to be around 6%.
There is a form of disconnect between the population and the healthcare community in Nigeria, we do not know the location of the nearest health facility to us and its strength in terms of personnel and equipment.
However, if we are able to decide on a doctor and do consult him/her and a diagnosis of a serious illness is made, a second opinion may save your life.
It has been found out from several reviews that another doctor’s opinion may dramatically change a treatment plan and even a diagnosis, some researchers have found that this happens in about 30percent of cases.
According to a finding published some time ago in the journal CANCER, the recommendations for surgery dropped by about 50 percent for women with breast cancer due to second opinion. In some cases, previously undiagnosed tumors were picked up when second opinions were sought.
Thus a second opinion can prevent an unnecessary surgery/procedure, or the cost and side effects of medication one might not really need. Conversely, it can also save life.
Below are some suggested reasons for a second or third medical opinion though telling your doctor you want to do that may be awkward.
1. In case of Terminal illness like Cancer
It is advisable if a diagnosis of cancer or some other serious conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus are made to seek a second opinion. This second opinion could confirm the diagnosis or not, and also point out the various treatment alternatives.
2. If your doctor suggest surgery
If your doctor suggests surgery as a form of treatment for your ailment especially elective (non-emergency) surgery, you are advised to seek a second opinion. Alternative forms of treatment may be offered which can save cost and the possible complications of the suggested treatment regime of the first doctor.
3. If your doctor prescribes long use of medicine
Life-long use of drugs is not easy especially if it is for primary prevention. A good example is someone who has elevated blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol. One doctor could prescribe lifetime use of cholesterol-lowering drug while another could recommend regular exercise , low fat diet and regular blood cholesterol check. Every drug has its side effects.
4. If you are not getting better
No matter how light an illness is, if you are not getting better, ask your doctor to send you to a specialist in that medical area or seek a second opinion yourself.
5. If your doctor is very young
If your doctor has just qualified and not quite experienced, seek a second medical opinion. You may decide not to tell him as he/she may not be mature enough to understand. A good doctor will suggest a second opinion even if he/she has been in practice for a million years.
6. If there is conflicting advice.
If your second doctor gives a very different opinion from that of the first doctor, consult a third doctor. We are talking of life here, it has no duplicate.
7. If the Doctor is not a specialist.
If the Doctor is not a specialist in that area of medicine, seek the opinion of a specialist in that area of medicine. For example, if a woman is finding it difficult to get pregnant, see a gynaecologist. Your general practitioner may not be able to help you.