Ask the Expert: Getting a Second Opinion

Do I Need a Second Opinion?

Being diagnosed with a brain tumour is a difficult time and even after you have seen a specialist there may be some unanswered questions. Usually these questions will slowly be answered as treatment unfolds and you begin to seek a deeper understanding of your illness. However, you may feel that you would like an opinion from another expert in the field of brain tumours as you decide on the best treatment option(s).

It is important to keep in mind that there are many different brain tumours and opinions may vary regarding surgical, radiation and medical treatments. Standard treatments have been developed for certain types of tumours but for others, especially if a tumour comes back, (recurs) opinions and options for treatment may vary in different institutions. As well, the availability of clinical trials may vary from centre to centre. In Canada brain tumour experts generally know each other and communicate frequently via email and meetings. Many brain tumour treatment programs are based at university centres but groups dealing with brain tumour treatment are constantly interacting with each other to provide optimal patient care.

 Your specialist or your family physician can refer you for a second opinion. However, keep in mind that this should be done in a manner that shows respect for care received and explain that you wish to explore the opinions of other experts in the field and not transfer treatment. In the end, however, you are responsible for making your own decision as to the care you feel is optimal for you and your family.

You may not need to actually see a physician as some can be contacted by email to give an opinion as an MR scan can be either sent electronically or mailed as a CD. For a variety of reasons it is always a good idea to purchase your own personal copy of your scan from the film library in your hospital. Having a record of your clinical treatment including pathology reports to give to the physician giving a second opinion is always beneficial.

Certainly you can seek input from physicians and others outside of Canada but keep in mind that the opinion and any treatment could be very expensive. The Canadian Health Act insures that all Canadians have universal health coverage and this includes receiving a second, or more opinion(s) in this country. However, there are some differences between the provinces and territories and this can sometimes be difficult, but not impossible.

If finances are blocking your access to seeking another opinion you may want to speak to your nurse, social worker or other member of your health care team for creative solutions. Service clubs in your area may be willing to assist you in your endeavour.

Having a brain tumour may be the most difficult problem you have ever faced. Listen to your heath care team, read all you can, speak to other brain tumour patients and seek a second opinion if you feel it would help. Subsequently, you will be able to go forward confidently as an informed patient able to make educated decisions regarding your care.


You can download this information as a Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Information Sheet (pdf).
Thank you to Pam Del Maestro, a registered nurse in Montreal and one of the founders of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for generously offering her time to provide this important post-operative information.

Return to Information Sheets here.

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