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Type: Journal article
Title: Second opinions in medical oncology
Author: Olver, I.
Carey, M.
Bryant, J.
Boyes, A.
Evans, T.
Sanson-Fisher, R.
Citation: BMC Palliative Care, 2020; 19(1):112-1-112-6
Publisher: Springer Nature
Issue Date: 2020
ISSN: 1472-684X
Statement of
Ian Olver, Mariko Carey, Jamie Bryant, Allison Boyes, Tiffany Evans, and Rob Sanson-Fisher
Abstract: Background: The current study aimed to further our understanding of second opinions among medical oncology patients by examining the proportion of patients who sought a second opinion about their cancer treatment, and why. Methods: The study was conducted between 2013 and 2015 in three medical oncology clinics located in public hospitals in Australia: in metropolitan New South Wales, metropolitan Queensland, and in Tasmania. Those patients who provide written informed consent were asked to complete a brief paper and pencil survey in the clinic containing questions on sociodemographic, disease and treatment characteristics. Approximately 1 month later, participants were mailed a second paper and pencil survey which contained questions about whether they had sought a second opinion and their motivation for doing so. Non-responders were followed up by letter at 3 and 6 weeks. Results: Of 823 patients screened for eligibility, 698 eligible patients, 612 provided consent. Of those who consented, 355 completed both the initial survey and the second survey and were included in the analyses. Of the 57 patients who sought a second opinion, the most frequent reasons given for doing so were the need for reassurance (49.1%) and the need to consider the range of treatment options (41.8%). Of the 297 (83.6%) participants who did not seek a second opinion, the main reason was confidence in the first doctor (88.7%). Only 3.1% patients did not know that they could ask for a second opinion. Occasionally the doctor will initiate the referral for a second opinion. Conclusions: Our study suggests that a minority of cancer patients seek a second opinion at some phase during their care. Most did so for reassurance or to ensure that they had covered all of the treatment options and not because of discomfort or distrust of their treating doctor. Few patients reported a lack of awareness of second opinions. This suggests that second opinions form part of a patient-centred approach to information provision about care options. Whether the second opinion improves the quality of care or indeed outcomes has been difficult to demonstrate.
Keywords: Cancer; patient-centred care; quality of care; second opinions; referrals; consultation
Rights: © The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
RMID: 1000024264
DOI: 10.1186/s12904-020-00619-9
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