Consider a Second Opinion
Why is it important to get a second opinion?
Your doctor has told you that you have ALS. Getting a second opinion on the diagnosis of a serious disease like ALS can be critical. Since there is no definitive test for ALS and the symptoms can mimic many other medical conditions, making the diagnosis of ALS can be difficult. Often it is only after the symptoms have progressed and the patient shows conclusive signs and symptoms of the disease that a physician can reach a diagnosis of "definite" ALS. Some neurologists estimate that as many as 15% of the people diagnosed with ALS have been incorrectly diagnosed. Doctors are not offended by patients seeking a second opinion, and even ALS specialists at an ALS Center will readily refer you to other specialists in the Northeast (for instance, in New York City or Baltimore) for a second opinion.
You think you may have the symptoms of ALS, but no one has given you this diagnosis. It is not uncommon to hear of people eventually diagnosed with ALS who had progressive muscle weakness, twitching or cramps for a year or more without knowing what was wrong. In some situations, patients undergo treatments including surgery and other serious and expensive medical interventions for misdiagnosed symptoms. If the symptoms of muscle weakness, twitching or cramps progress despite therapies, or your doctor can't reach a diagnosis, it may be time to get a second opinion. It's important, however, not to become unduly alarmed. ALS is an uncommon disease with only 2 cases diagnosed per 100,000 population each year. This translates into approximately 5,000 new cases of ALS in the U.S. each year.
"Whenever you have doubts about your care, you should at least think about getting a second opinion," says Peter Lee, director of consumer protection programs at the Center for Health Care Rights, a Los Angeles-based consumer advocacy group. "Patients aren't shackled to their doctors. They need to be assertive. They need to be in control of deciding what their care should be." 1
1 Mestel, Rosie (1999, February 15). Need a Second Opinion? Los Angeles Times, Home Edition: Health Section, Page S-1.
Click here for information about how to go about getting a second opinion