It is an accepted practice with many surgeons to ask other specialists to review a particularly complicated case. We encourage this collaboration and discussion amongst professionals. Cancer is very complex and having two opinions can sometimes offer different options.
Patients can also request a second opinion themselves and, as a general rule, specialists are happy for this to happen. There are a variety of reasons why a second opinion may help – for example, one specialist may have more experience in undertaking a particular procedure.
Bear in mind that getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you need to be confident that it will give you useful information.
If you would like to be referred for a second opinion, the first step is to ask your GP to organise it. This is an acceptable procedure and should happen smoothly, especially if you know the name and hospital of the specialist to be contacted for a second opinion. Even if you contact the specialist and hospital directly, the GP will still have to be involved so that your notes can be made available before the first appointment. For NHS information about getting a second opinion, visit the NHS Choices website or read ‘Common health questions – Getting a referral from your GP‘.
If you do go for a second opinion, you may wish to take a friend or relative with you and a list of questions, so that you can ensure your concerns are covered during the discussion. A number of organisations suggest some questions relevant to bowel cancer that you might wish to ask:
Talking to your GP –
• Cancer Research UK – ‘Seeing your GP‘
• Bowel Cancer UK – ‘Visiting your GP‘
You may also wish to read Pelican’s frequently asked questions about bowel cancer surgery.