Should I get a second opinion?

All decisions regarding treatments are made by a multi-disciplinary team (MDT), who are specialists in surgery, radiology, pathology, oncology and radiology. They use the national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, you may want another medical opinion about your diagnosis or treatment.

You may have doubts about your diagnosis, may not understand the information you are given; are not happy with the treatment that has been recommended; or you may just want to talk to another doctor or specialist about your diagnosis or treatment.

All patients in the UK have a right to a second opinion and this may form a valuable part of your decision-making process. Some people feel uncomfortable asking their doctor for a second opinion, but specialists are used to patients doing this. You can ask your GP to refer you to another consultant or specialist, either on the NHS or privately and they will send over results of any tests you have had. Or you can ask your current consultant or specialist to refer you for a second opinion. You can get a second opinion even if you have started treatment or still want to be treated by your first doctor.

Within the specialist pancreatic units in the UK, first line management is usually evidence based and will be relatively consistent from unit to unit. There may be slightly different opinions regarding suitability for certain treatments as every patient is an individual, and there are inevitably areas where there is debate regarding the best treatment option.

The decisions regarding treatment in specialist centres are no longer made by individual consultants but are a “committee” decision based on all the evidence from investigations presented to the multi-disciplinary team discussion (a weekly meeting with pancreatic specialists in surgery, radiology, pathology, oncology, radiology etc).

Where treatment opinions can differ is in the field of research of potentially new (and unproven) treatments as part of trials. Most regional centres will be involved in research trials but the specific trial may differ from one centre to another. It should be emphasised that a trial is being conducted because the potential benefit of the treatment is unknown (it may be better, the same, or sometimes not as good as current evidence based standard treatment).

As the specialists from a region are likely to have been involved with the initial decision, obtaining a second opinion will normally require travel to a different regional specialist centre. It may also be a good idea for a family member or friend to come with you to support you and help process the complex information. It is worth thinking about what you would like to get out of the second opinion before the appointment and writing down any questions you would like to ask.

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