Seeking a Second Opinion for Cancer

Contact Us

If you are a new patient, family member or a referring physician inquiring about getting a cancer Second Opinion:


(608) 262-5223

(800) 622-8922

Contact UW Carbone Cancer Center


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What Makes a High-Quality Second Opinion?

Considering a second opinion for your cancer? Need to learn more? We can help.


Cancer can be confusing and overwhelming. Getting a second opinion from the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center can make you feel more comfortable about your diagnosis and treatment plan or may offer different treatment options for you.


Our main objective at the UW Carbone Center is to give patients a range of treatment options and determine the best therapy for each patient. Our team includes clinicians who are nationally recognized for their treatment expertise, as well as their research in ALL types of cancer.


If you are considering a second opinion, consider the UW Carbone Cancer Center.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is a second opinion?


When you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is important your diagnosis is correct, your treatment is appropriate and you’re comfortable with the team of doctors who will be treating you. A second opinion is when another doctor, who is an expert in your type of cancer, gives you their view about your cancer diagnosis and how to treat it. It helps you make more informed decisions about your care.


Why do I need one?


The main reason patients seek a second opinion is reassurance the first diagnosis is correct and all treatment options have been explored. The doctor giving the second opinion may agree your doctor has the right treatment plan in place, in which case you'll have the peace of mind you’re getting the best care. Or the second opinion may introduce you to other treatment options you can discuss with your doctor.


Don't I need treatment as fast as possible?


You have time. You may feel an urgency to begin treatment right away, but in most circumstances you have time to do some research and get another opinion. Even if you have started treatment, it is not too late to get another opinion. You can get an opinion before, during and after treatment.


Why should I seek a second opinion from the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center?


When choosing a place for a second opinion, you should consider an academic medical center where they have experts in diagnosing and treating cancer. The UW Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) is part of an academic medical center whose oncologists use the latest techniques and research to diagnose and treat your disease. The UW Carbone Cancer Center is an NCI-designated cancer center, which means they have been chosen by the National Cancer Institute as having high quality care and advanced research programs that develop into new treatments.


Only the top academic cancer centers are NCI Cancer Centers. In addition, the UW Carbone Cancer Center is also a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). This is an alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research and education.


What if my doctor says there is nothing else they can do?


Another reason to seek a second opinion from the UWCCC, is if your treatment is no longer working and your doctor says there is nothing else they can do. UWCCC may be able to offer you a clinical trial or new approach that may not be available where you are being treated.


Will my insurance cover a second opinion?


Many health insurance companies, including Medicare, cover second opinions. We recommend calling your insurance company to find out what their process is for getting another opinion. Sometimes companies will only pay providers in their network. You have the right to appeal for a second opinion, but you will need to follow your insurance companies appeal process.


Will my doctor be angry if I get a second opinion?


You should not feel guilty or hesitate about asking for a second opinion. Often doctors encourage second opinions if they know it will make you feel more comfortable. If this upsets your doctor, then they are not the right one for you. It is your doctor’s job to help you get the best care possible, regardless of where and by whom. Ask your doctor who they would recommend? Keep in mind, doctors ask fellow doctors their opinions all the time as part of their own process of diagnosing and treating cancer.


What should I ask a doctor during a second opinion?


There are many reasons for getting a second opinion. Sometimes patients are concerned about another pathology opinion. They want to be sure the diagnosis is correct. Often people seek out the opinion of another radiologist to read their CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, etc., to be sure the radiologists are intepreting the same thing. Often, patients have questions about types of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Ask the doctor questions about the diagnosis you've been given and the treatment that's been proposed. You can even seek an opinion if you are undergoing or have finished your treatment.


What happens after I get a second opinion?


If the second opinion is the same as the first one, you will feel relieved you are on the right course for the best outcome of your cancer. Now you will need to decide where is the best place to get your treatment. If there are differences in the two opinions, you may ask them to communicate with each other to talk about the differences. You may decide to get a third opinion from another specialist and ask them to review the first two opinions and give their recommendations. After weighing the options, patients must decide on their medical team.


If you choose to come to the UW Carbone Cancer Center, our team will work with you to develop your treatment plan. We will be with you every step of the way on your cancer journey.


Preparing for Your Appointment


If you schedule a second opinion from us, please do the following prior to your appointment.


Gathering Records

  • If you have received a recent diagnosis from a health care provider outside of UW Health, we will need to gather records from the providers you have seen. This includes notes from clinic visits and procedures, any imaging exams, and pathology reports.

  • Some providers will require that we submit an authorization signed by the patient before they will send us your records. To minimize the chance of delays in your care, help us to obtain your records by going to our website and printing the Authorization for Release of Medical Records (pdf), completing the release for each provider from which you have received breast health services, and faxing the signed form to us at (608) 265-1836. If you have questions about completing the authorization, you may call our file room at (608) 262-1127.

Evaluating Records in Preparation for Your Visit


Once we have received your records we will have our physicians in radiology and pathology read any recent imaging or pathology you have had performed. These over reads are most often covered by insurance. However, we advise you to check with your insurance to understand what portion of the bill you may be responsible for.


Depending on the results of this review, our providers may recommend additional workup, such as additional imaging or biopsy. If this is recommended for you, our staff will contact you to arrange the additional appointments.


Travel and Accommodations


Please contact our Guest Services department for assistance with lodging or transportation at (608) 263-0315. 


Billing and Insurance


Please check with your insurance to understand if services provided to you by UW Health will be covered prior to your visit and what your financial responsibility will be. If you have questions about UW Health billing, please call our patient business services department at (608) 262-2221.