Arriving at the doctor’s office can be a scary feeling. You know that something is off in your body chemistry, and oftentimes we convince ourselves that it is something serious. You think, “No way does my foot hurt because I dropped something on it. It hurts because of cancer.” And you’re not the only one who thinks this way. With sites like WebMD feeding Americans the long list of fatal diseases that follow even the most common of symptoms, it is understandable that anxiety surrounding health care would rise drastically.

When my grandfather was a boy, he would only go to the doctor if he was severely ill or in high amounts of pain. In fact, he lived through most of his teenage years with a broken finger because he didn’t think it was serious enough to have it checked out. Nowadays, our children let out a single sneeze and we rush them to the nearest urgent care facility for immediate care.

But why do we do this when we know that healthcare is so far from affordable? My guess: the fear of a serious diagnosis. Rather than wait out pain or illness to see if it subsides, we immediately find a doctor to tell us if we are going to live or die. The worst thing to happen is when a doctor fuels your hypochondriacal fire. Rather than putting your fears to rest, some doctors will hype them up in an attempt to have more tests done, earning them more money.

This is when second opinions become extremely necessary. If you are the type of person who will believe anything a doctor tells you (and accept any price point they give you), it is important to seek other options to ensure you aren’t getting worried about a disorder that isn’t actually affecting you. Often, patients will seek care in a new city to be sure they are getting accurate results from a doctor with a different background.

In cases like coping with a terminal diagnosis, seeking a second opinion from a new physician is nearly a requirement. Terminal diagnoses can be misrepresented for a number of reasons. For example, images created by MRI’s and CAT scans are not always accurate, especially if the machines are somewhat old or a hand-me-down from a different office. Because these tests are typically run in emergency situations, doctors have to be sure that they are delivering accurate diagnoses based on the images.

When and if the terminal diagnosis still stands, patients are typically referred to a social worker who does whatever they can to make sure you have everything you need for treatment. Some social workers are required to refer you to an additional doctor for follow-up tests to be sure the diagnosis you were given was correct. Social workers play a very big role in working with patients who have received less-than-favorable diagnoses from their doctors, and they will be sure to recommend a second opinion when and if they believe one is necessary.

Aside from terminal subjects, patients with non-life-threatening symptoms have the option of pursuing additional opinions as well. This occurs commonly in dermatology clinics. Skin is a tricky thing to get right. Because our skin is present and visible for the entire day, people take the treatment of their skin very seriously. If one dermatologists believes you have a chronic skin condition, perhaps a second dermatologist will believe it is stress related.

Seeking a second opinion has nothing to do with the amount of trust you grant your doctor. All doctors have gone to school and learned roughly the same things. Finding another opinion has everything to do with your own treatment and your own health standards. You don’t start a diet without asking people if they’ve heard of it and what diets have worked for them. Health is the same way; before you choose one path for treatment, it is important that you road map all of your different options and make an educated decision based on what you believe will be most successful for you.

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