Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology

, Volume 142, Issue 7, pp 1521–1528 | Cite as

Is there evidence for a better health care for cancer patients after a second opinion? A systematic review

  • Dana Ruetters
  • Christian Keinki
  • Sarah Schroth
  • Patrick Liebl
  • Jutta HuebnerEmail author
Review – Clinical Oncology



With growing complexity of diagnostics and therapy, as well as increasing involvement of patients in the decision-making process, there is more and more demand for second opinions in oncology. This literature review aims at analyzing the benefits and risks involved, as well as the tools needed to establish a structured program for second opinion within a modern healthcare system.


A systematic literature search was performed using MEDLINE and Embase and the databases SocINDEX, ERIC and CINAHL. Thirteen articles met the inclusion criteria and offered a relevant insight into the topic of second opinions.


Depending on the study, between 6.5 and 36 % of patients search for a second opinion, due to a variety of reasons. Changes in diagnosis, treatment recommendations or prognosis as a result of the second opinion occurred in 12–69 % of cases. In 43–82 % of cases, the original diagnosis or treatment was verified. Patient satisfaction was high, and the second opinion was deemed as helpful and reassuring in most cases. Yet, data on patient-relevant outcomes or on the quality of the second opinion are missing.


In general, outcome data on second opinion are divergent and scarce. Yet, with patients’ demand for second opinion and influence of second opinion on treatment decisions, a structured, high quality and transparent second-opinion program seems mandatory. Such a program may support patient–physician communication and improve the flow of information, as well as decision-making. Its evaluation should be independent from the provider of the second opinion.


Second opinion Patients’ needs Information Cancer Counseling 



There was no funding for our review.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana Ruetters
    • 2
  • Christian Keinki
    • 2
  • Sarah Schroth
    • 2
  • Patrick Liebl
    • 2
  • Jutta Huebner
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Working Group Integrative Oncology, Dr. Senckenberg Chronomedical InstituteJ.W. Goethe UniversityFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.German Cancer SocietyBerlinGermany

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