"Getting two or three opinions is important because a cancer diagnosis is not always clear-cut. There is an element of subjectivity," she said.

Getting a second opinion after a breast cancer diagnosis is always a good idea. That's how a person makes sense of something: Through comparison.

When diagnosed with breast cancer a person often feels a sense of urgency to start treatment immediately, but a better course of action is to do some research and assure the diagnosis is correct and the course of treatment a good fit, said independent health advocate R. Ruth Linden, president of Tree of Life Health Advocates in San Francisco.

"When a biopsy reveals a breast cancer diagnosis, it's rarely an emergency. It's important to act, but it's not something that has to be taken care of by the end of the business day," Linden said.

Ongoing advancements in treatment and diagnosis have led to better medicines and more minimally invasive procedures, but breast cancer always has surprises.

"Getting two or three opinions is important because a cancer diagnosis is not always clear-cut. There is an element of subjectivity," she said.

Proven benefits

Getting an additional medical opinion will add time and stress, but it's worth it for the assurance it will bring.

"The confidence we get from a second opinion buoys us as we go into surgery or other treatment. That increase in confidence in turn can positively affect the outcome," Linden said.

For many people a second opinion is a valuable tool. A small study done by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that more than 40% of the people in the study who asked for a second opinion had a change in diagnosis.

"Seeking a second opinion doesn't mean you don't trust your doctor. It means, 'I respect my body and want to confirm,'" Linden said.

Among doctors there is a virtual consensus that a second opinion is not a luxury. It's good medicine, Linden said. If your doctor is unwilling or hesitant, consider that a red flag.

"No responsible physician will discourage a second opinion," Linden said.

What it entails

A second opinion is a consultation where another breast cancer specialist will review and interpret your medical records and test results.

Be sure to have a copy of your mammogram on disc and your medical report, Linden said.

Seeing a new doctor is an opportunity to ask questions you previously may not have considered.

"They may have new resources the other doctor didn't know about. You might find out about new developments or clinical trials," Linden said.

Additionally, a different doctor may take a different approach when faced with the same information, she said.

To keep insurance costs down, stay in network if possible.

"If only one breast surgeon is available within your network, take it up with insurance. That's not acceptable. Make an appeal," Linden said.

Where to find a second opinion

-- Ask friends and family for a breast cancer specialist whom they like and trust.

-- Ask your doctor whom he or she would see or send their wife, mother, sister or daughter to.

-- Ask others within your social network.

-- If those fail, turn to a patient advocate. Ask your insurer about resources or seek out a nonprofit like the Patient Advocate Foundation, patientadvocate.org.

You may have to travel for a second opinion, but it's worth it, Linden said.

You can use the internet, but don't find a doctor on Yelp, she said: "Triangulate what you find with other sources."

Take a trusted friend with you to take notes, ask questions and help prompt you.