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How to get a second opinion following a brain tumour diagnosis

If you want to make sure that you are exploring your treatment options, or you disagree with your treatment plan, you can ask for a second opinion. Here we’ll detail how to get a second opinion following a brain tumour diagnosis as well as discuss what you might expect from the process.

On this page, we’ll cover:

What is a second opinion?

A second opinion involves seeing a different GP or specialist to get their opinion of your condition and treatment options. This might be possible in the same hospital or surgery but could also mean going to a different location.  

Why do people request a second opinion?

You might consider asking for a second opinion on your brain tumour treatment and care if:

  • you want to check other experts agree with the original treatment plan your multi-disciplinary team (MDT) has decided on. Your plan should fit in with national guidelines for treating your brain tumour type
  • your treatment plan may have been changed and you’re unsure about it. For example, you may be offered a different, newer or wider choice of treatments, possibly as part of an ongoing clinical trial
  • you disagree with your treatment plan
  • you’ve been told that the only treatment available to you is palliative care, and you want to know every possible option has been explored before accepting this. Knowing this has been done can bring comfort to families.

  • Research different GP surgeries, hospitals, and their statistics, to help you make a decision about where to go for a second opinion
  • Make sure you are aware of the possible delays when asking for a second opinion & what they may mean to your care, diagnosis or treatment plan. Your medical team will be able to explain this for you
  • Talk to your GP about getting a second opinion. They’re able to refer you to another specialist
  • It can sometimes help to have access to or copies of your medical records. Talk to your current medical team about accessing these as soon as possible to avoid delays
  • You can book an appointment with a different GP within the same surgery. If you don’t have more than one GP at your surgery, you can register at a new surgery.

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Am I legally entitled to a second opinion?

Although you don’t have a legal right to a second opinion, you do have the right to ask for a second opinion without fear of reprisal or questioning. In England this right is guaranteed by the NHS Constitution. The right also exists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you ask for a second opinion, very few healthcare professionals will refuse to refer you for one.

In our experience dealing with people affected by a brain tumour, healthcare professionals are very open to allowing second opinions, recognising the sensitive nature of the diagnosis and subsequent treatment and its impact. You should always feel able to approach your healthcare team, either your GP or your specialist, to discuss a second opinion.

How to get a second opinion on a brain tumour diagnosis

Getting a second opinion from a GP

You can book an appointment with a different GP within the same surgery. If you don’t have more than one GP at your surgery, you can register at a new surgery.

Getting a second opinion from a hospital specialist

You should speak to your GP. They’re able to refer you to another specialist, either on the NHS or privately.

The specialist will be told it’s for a second opinion, and they’ll be sent any relevant test results and scans you’ve already had. This doesn’t mean they’ll automatically take over your care. If you wish to be treated by the new consultant, arrangements will need to be made with the doctors and hospital.

Alternatively, you can discuss having a second opinion with your current hospital specialist or consultant.

A relative or carer is also entitled to ask for a second opinion on your behalf, with your consent.

If you would like to find centres which have been accredited due to outstanding care and treatment for a second opinion, here you’ll find a list of the centres awarded Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence status.

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How long will I have to wait for a second opinion?

It’s important to remember that getting a second opinion might postpone treatment. Check with your doctor whether postponing any treatment could cause harm.

Getting a second opinion can delay your treatment because:

  • you’ve already seen a doctor, so you may have to wait longer for an appointment
  • a second opinion with a different doctor or consultant will usually be at a different hospital, which could involve some travelling
  • getting your medical information from one doctor to another can cause a delay.

When you go for your second opinion, it can help to be prepared.

How to prepare for a second opinion on your brain tumour diagnosis

  • Think about what questions you want to ask.
  • If you can get copies of, or access to, your electronic files, these can help when talking to the new specialist.
  • Take someone with you to get the most out of the appointment. They could write down the answers to your questions so you don’t have to remember them.

You might also be interested in our trusted online app, BRIAN. BRIAN allows you to record your entire brain tumour experience in one place, including symptoms, treatments and side-effects, which you can use to help your discussions with healthcare professionals.

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Neurosurgical Outcomes Data

In preparing for your surgery, you may wish to know more about who you’re being seen by or seek a second opinion. The Neurosurgical National Audit Programme about consultants specialising in neurosurgery in England, along with some data about their neurosurgical outcomes.

When looking at this information, it’s important to remember that statistics aren’t always able to show other factors that may affect the outcomes. For example, some surgeons may have lower survival rates because they’re willing to take on more complex cases.

Find out more

Make the right choices for you

Our Step by Step interactive guide outlines what happens following a diagnosis, to answer your questions and help you to understand what to expect.

Tips from our community

“It’s important that you don’t have any major outstanding worries about whether you are going down the right path with your treatment or not. Getting a second opinion gave me piece of mind and now I feel confident with where I am heading.”

“We got a second opinion and it was the best decision that we made. It doesn’t hurt to get another consultant’s view on things and most of them don’t mind.”

“My second opinion was definitely worth it! The second consultant disagreed with the first and felt my tumour was operable and that this would be in my best interest due to it’s location. Relieved isn’t the word!”

“I saw getting a second opinion as a chance to get the breadth of knowledge and expertise from multiple people. I didn’t distrust my first consultant, but welcomed guidance from more than one team to help decide on the best management of my tumour.”

By joining one of our Online Support Communities, you can get more tips about living with or beyond a brain tumour diagnosis from people who truly understand what you’re going through.

Find out more

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
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