Second opinions


You and your family may be worried about your diagnosis and treatment plan. You might be wondering if there are other options to consider that you haven't been offered.

There is not a legal ‘right’ to having a second opinion, but most healthcare professionals will support your choice.

This page will tell you more about asking for a second opinion and how can help.


How your treatment plan is decided

There may be different ways to treat your type of cancer but not all of them will be suitable for you.

The treatment plan you are offered will be the result of complex discussions by many different types of healthcare professionals involved in your care, not of all whom you will meet.

If you’re being seen within the NHS your treatment plan will be based on discussions from a specialist team called a multidisciplinary team (MDT)

Many private doctors will also consult colleagues before offering treatment. 

Your specialist doctor and nurse will discuss the treatment plan being offered and give you the chance to ask any questions.


Why ask for a second opinion?

There can be a number of reasons why you might want a second opinion: 

  • Worries that you’re not being offered the best treatment available
  • Concerns your diagnosis is wrong or taking too long
  • You're unhappy with the treatment plan being offered
  • You think you could be treated sooner or elsewhere

Before asking for a second opinion, you may find it helpful to ask for another appointment with your healthcare team to talk things over.

This will give you a chance to raise questions and talk about what's worrying you.


Advantages and disadvantages

Before asking for a second opinion it can be helpful to think about the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • A second expert has reviewed your case
  • It can be reassuring if the new consultant agrees with the original diagnosis and treatment plan
  • Different treatment choices or the chance to join a clinical trial might be offered
  • You may feel more confident with the new doctor and prefer their way of communicating

Disadvantages:

  • A second opinion can delay treatment
  • You may be disappointed if the new doctor agrees with the original plan when you were expecting different options
  • Travelling to a different hospital further away may be inconvenient, costly and difficult for your family to visit
  • The new doctor is not obliged to take on your care

How do I get a second opinion from a GP?

If you’d like a second opinion from another GP, you can ask to see someone else in the same practice.

If you want to change GP practices you will need to re-register elsewhere.


How do I get a second opinion from a hospital?

Ideally you would talk to your consultant about your concerns and they can arrange for you to see someone else.

You can also ask your GP to refer you to another consultant.

Your family can ask for a second opinion on your behalf, but they must have your consent.


is here with you

Wondering about a second opinion can be stressful.

You may worry about offending your current healthcare team. Most doctors and nurses fully understand why you might want a second opinion, and will be supportive.

Our Cancer Support Specialists can help you plan conversations with your healthcare team. They are here to listen to your concerns and find the help you need:


Last review: Oct 2021 | Next review: Oct 2022

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