How to get a Second Opinion

How to get a Second Opinion

It’s not uncommon for people to want a second opinion about their cancer diagnosis or treatment.  There isn’t actually a legal right to one in the UK, but doctors will rarely refuse to arrange an appointment to provide a second opinion.


Why you might want to ask for a second opinion?


Thymic cancers are rare

Thymic cancers are rare.   Incidence rates are about 1-3 cases per 1 million people in the UK.  This means doctors rarely see them, if at all in their career.  They can be more difficult to study and there are generally fewer treatment options.

You may wish to seek a second opinion from an oncologist with specialist thymoma or thymic carcinoma experience. This can help to confirm the diagnosis, among other things.


Your treatment involves invasive/life-changing surgery

This type of surgery is not likely a decision you want to take lightly.  Of course not every surgery for cancer can be minimally invasive, but sometimes a second opinion can help to confirm that you are being offered the least invasive treatment option possible.


Your cancer might not be responding to your treatment plan

Cancers are complicated, and often very individual from one person to the next. Some treatments do not show the results that are hoped or expected; in this instance a second opinion may help to determine if there are any potential treatment options available.


Things to think about

Seeking a second opinion can be time-consuming, sometimes worrisome and you may not receive the answers you want.  It can prolong treatment. If you see a doctor privately you also have the cost to consider.

Before you ask for another opinion, think exactly why you want one.


If you haven’t fully understood what your doctor told you

Are you confident that you took everything in when you spoke to your doctor?  It may be helpful to ask them to go over things again.

You should not feel awkward or embarrassed by this.  Doctors know just how difficult and complicated it can be taking in medical information.

Once you have had a chance to absorb the information, you may have further questions you want to ask your original doctor.  You may read up on Thymic cancer and have something you want to ask.  You can do this in a second appointment.


You aren’t happy with the suggested treatment

It’s not uncommon to hear about other treatments that other people with Thymic cancer have had/are having.  You may have heard about another drug or newer treatment and wonder why you haven’t been offered something different.

Sometimes the possibility of other “better” treatments can make you feel less confident about what you have been offered.  If you feel like this, speak to your doctor or specialist nurse and ask them why you’re being offered this particular treatment and whether there may be any other options.

Be clear on why you think a specific treatment is best for you.

If you are still not satisfied you may wish to seek a second opinion.


You find it difficult to speak to your doctor

Again, not uncommon. Sometimes you may not have full confidence in a particular doctor, or you don’t feel so comfortable talking to them.  It’s important when going through cancer treatment that you can trust and have confidence in your medical professionals.  If you do not feel comfortable with the doctor who gave the original opinion then you may request to speak to another, or indeed a specialist nurse.  In some cases they may offer to speak to the doctor on your behalf, or suggest to speak with you and the doctor to voice any concerns you have.




Pros and cons of getting a second opinion

There are both advantages and disadvantages to getting a second opinion. It can be good to consider both:

Possible advantages:

  • If both doctors agree on the same diagnosis and treatment then this can help you to feel more confident in their proposed treatment and care plan.
  • You may find that you get on better with a different doctor and have more confidence in what they say.
  • You may be offered different treatments.

Possible disadvantages

  • Waiting for a second opinion may mean your treatment is delayed. The person you see for a second opinion will also need to get information from your first doctor, which can take time. It may be worth asking your current consultant if a delay in treatment may cause you any harm.
  • You may find it upsetting being told the same, or different, news about your diagnosis and treatment, if it is not what you were hoping for.
  • If you are offered a different treatment, you may be asked to decide which treatment to have. Some people find this difficult and worry about whether they will make the right decision.
  • You may have to travel a long way to a different hospital to see another specialist. You may also then need to have your treatment at that hospital. This might not be easy for you or your family and may mean extra travelling costs.


How to ask for a second opinion

If you decide you want a second opinion, tell your current doctor. You might be worried about this, but getting a second opinion is a normal and routine part of today’s cancer care. They will not be offended. They might even be able to recommend another doctor for you to contact.

Some places to look for a second doctor:


Before going for your appointment with the second doctor you should gather all of your medical records relating to your diagnosis.

You may wish to ask the second doctor’s office if they need any particular test results, imaging scans or other information ahead of the appointment.  This can help to avoid having to repeat tests.


Getting all the information you need

  • Take detailed notes or ask if you can record the conversation.
  • Bring a family member or friend with you to help reduce the chance of information being misinterpreted.
  • Ask both doctors if they’re willing to review your case with each another.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.  And don’t be afraid to ask new questions while you’re there.
  • Ask questions, especially if the doctor says something you do not understand. It is important to have the information you need to make the best decisions about treatment.

If you are able, try to avoid cancelling any tests or treatments booked by your original doctor.  This can help to reduce any delay, if you decide to continue seeing the first doctor.


Which decision to choose?

Do the two doctors’ diagnoses differ?  You may want to ask further questions of each doctor to determine what led them to come to their conclusion.

  • Which tests did use to form your diagnosis?
  • What was your interpretation of the results?
  • Which guidelines or studies did you reference?
  • Did you consult with a team of other specialists, such as at a team tumour board review?
  • Do you have experience diagnosing and treating a case similar to mine?
  • What are your thoughts on the alternative option I’ve received?


Trouble getting a second opinion?

There is help available.


You can speak to your local Patient Advice and Liason Service (PALS) who may be able to help.  PALS offer confidential advice, support and information.

Find your local PALS office.


You can speak to your local Patient Advice & Support Service.

Find your local PASS office.


You can speak to your local Community Health Council.

Northern Ireland

Speak to your local Patient and Client Council.

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