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Facilities and Programs 4  Health and Medical Wishes: Providers, Facilities, and Programs (4)We call these qualities the three As: ability, affability, and availability. Because it’s difficult for us to assess the ability or affability of a doctor we’ve never met, most of us choose our physicians by availability.

Second Opinions Whenever you receive a diagnosis that requires a major medical intervention, such as surgery or chemotherapy, or you question a doctor’s findings or explanation, you need a second opinion. A second opinion is just that—asking another doctor to evaluate your condition, consider your particular situation, and provide his or her recommendation as to the best course of treatment for you.

You should ask for a second opinion if you believe a critical diagnosis has not been well explained or if your condition could be handled by more than one type of specialist or subspecialist. For example, certain heart conditions may be treated by a cardiovascular surgeon or a cardiologist, or localized prostate cancer may be managed by either a radiation oncologist with radiation therapy or by a urologist with surgery.

Don’t be embarrassed—you’re not going behind your doctor’s back by asking someone else’s thoughts. It’s prudent and a smart thing to do. Certainly, the availability of your physicians is important. None of us wants to travel three hours to the nearest city, wait weeks or months for an appointment, or sit in the doctor’s waiting room for hours. But availability takes a back seat to ability in certain circumstances.

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