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Should I get a second opinion on prostate cancer treatment?

Ensuring that you make an informed decision is vital for any medical treatment, but it carries heightened importance in prostate cancer care due to the delicate balance between eliminating cancer cells and safeguarding your holistic well-being, especially post-treatment.

Getting a second opinion for a prostate cancer diagnosis offers several key benefits, including confirming diagnosis accuracy, exploring treatment options, clarifying information, providing peace of mind, and ensuring your treatment plan fits your individual needs.

Men, along with their close family members, may consider seeking the opinion of another doctor. This process empowers patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare, ensuring they receive the most suitable and effective treatment for their condition.

Why does a second opinion matter for prostate cancer treatment?

Men with prostate cancer should carefully consider their treatment options and the side effects that they may have during and after treatment.

The treatments for localised prostate cancer can significantly impact men’s lives.

The most common treatments for localised prostate cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy, and these treatments can cause a variety of long-term side effects, including:

  • Surgery: erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence
  • Radiation therapy: erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, bowel disturbance (diarrhoea, frequent stools, rectal bleeding)
  • Hormone therapy: Erectile dysfunction due to blocking of the male hormone testosterone, fatigue, bone density loss leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures and weight gain.

In addition to these physical effects, localised prostate cancer treatments can have a significant emotional and psychological impact on men. After a radical prostatectomy, you will no longer ejaculate during sex. Men with prostate cancer may experience anxiety, depression, and fear of death. Both or either means they may also have to deal with changes in their relationships with their partners, family, and friends.

Recognising and understanding potential treatment side effects is crucial. At the very beginning of your cancer journey, your consultant urologists and oncologist should have a detailed discussion with you when deciding with you your treatment plan.

For men who place high importance on preserving sexual function, bowel, and bladder control as key lifestyle factors, seeking a second opinion or exploring alternative treatments may be beneficial. Proton beam therapy, for example, is known for its ability to reduce the risk of side effects that could impact these functions.

Proton beam therapy (PBT) for prostate cancer is:

  • Precise: It can deliver a sufficient dose of radiation to the tumour while reducing the dose to healthy tissue surrounding the prostate. This can help to reduce the risk of side effects, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
  • Effective: PBT has been shown to be at least as effective as other treatments for prostate cancer.
  • Safe: PBT is safe and well-tolerated, with a low risk of significant side effects.

During proton beam therapy treatment, men are fitted with a spacer, a small medical device that separates the rectum from the prostate. The combination of a spacer with proton beam therapy treatment results in a lower dose of radiation to the rectum, and fewer men experiencing significant bowel problems after treatment.

When should I get a second opinion?

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, you will have a dedicated team of specialists by your side. This team typically includes a urological surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist. Working together, they will thoroughly review your prostate cancer diagnosis, cancer stage, and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Before seeking a second opinion, it’s beneficial to ask your consultant team to review your diagnosis and clarify any uncertainties. If you feel uneasy about the diagnosis or wish to explore alternative treatment options, open up this conversation with them. Your consultant team is there to explain their recommendations and in many cases, a second opinion may not be necessary.

However, if after this you still wish to seek a second opinion, you have that option and it is your right. You are entitled to seek a second opinion at any point in your prostate cancer journey.

We encourage you to ask questions and seek understanding at every step through the various stages of your cancer treatment journey.

Who should I go to for a second opinion?

If you think a second opinion would be helpful to you, speak to your doctor or GP. They can refer you to an oncologist that specialises in prostate cancer.

Alternatively, you are perfectly entitled to do your research and pay to see an oncologist privately.

Benefits of getting a second opinion

A second opinion of your cancer treatment is when you seek the expertise of another cancer specialist or team of doctors to review your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Benefits of second opinions include:

  • Confirmation of diagnosis: Obtaining confirmation that your diagnosis is accurate is especially crucial for rare or complex cancers where initial diagnosis may be uncertain.
  • Exploration of treatment options: You may discover different treatment approaches and options. A second consultant may offer insights into additional therapy options, and clinical trials, or provide access to advanced treatments such as proton beam therapy.
  • Clarification of information: Receiving assistance in understanding and clearing up any doubts or confusion regarding your diagnosis, prognosis, or potential treatment side effects can be incredibly helpful.
  • Peace of mind: Gaining assurance that you are on the right path and receiving the best possible care for your condition.
  • Verification of your treatment plan: Ensuring that the recommended treatment plan is the most suitable and up-to-date option for your specific type and stage of cancer.

It’s important to remember that seeking a second opinion does not imply that your initial doctor was incorrect. Cancer treatment varies based on several factors, including cancer type, stage, overall health, and individual preferences.

Disadvantages of getting a second opinion

The main disadvantages of seeking a second opinion are:

  • It may delay your cancer treatment
    • You may need to travel to another hospital or healthcare centre
  • You may find going back over your diagnosis upsetting

It is important to remember that a second opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be offered a different treatment or that you will change to a different team or hospital.

At Proton International London we will always aim to respond to any enquiry for a second opinion promptly to minimise any delay, and we will liaise with your initial consultant and clinical team on your behalf where appropriate.

How to get a second opinion on prostate cancer treatment

Getting a second opinion is a way to gather more information and make informed decisions about your care. A second opinion will mean seeing another GP or specialist doctor.

To explore getting a second opinion, speak with your consultant or ask your GP to refer you to another doctor. They can direct you to an NHS doctor who specialises in your condition. Alternatively, you may opt to pay for a second opinion from a private consultant.

If you wish to be seen privately for a second opinion on a prostate cancer diagnosis, you will be required to authorise access to your medical notes, which will include your diagnosis, previous and current treatments and medicines and test results.

When you make a request for a second opinion appointment at Proton International London we will require clinical information detailing your diagnosis. This will usually be in the form of a clinical letter from your current consultant and is essential to enable us to discuss your case and determine your eligibility for proton beam therapy.

Your clinical information will be shared with our specialist proton beam therapy consultants, who will evaluate your case and advise accordingly.

Additional relevant and necessary clinical information may also be required. If so, our team will be very happy to help source this on your behalf.

Looking for a second opinion or an alternative treatment? Contact us

At Proton International London, our experienced radiation oncologists work closely with the first-class clinical team of radiographers and physicists from University College Hospital (part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) to provide private patients diagnosed with prostate cancer with the highest quality cancer treatment and care.

Our doctors have a strong interest in clinical research, and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve the effectiveness and safety of proton beam therapy for prostate cancer patients. We are also striving to increase the availability of this cutting-edge treatment to patients in the UK and internationally.

If you are not deemed suitable for proton beam therapy treatment, our experienced oncologists will advise you accordingly and discuss the most suitable treatment options based on your specific diagnosis.

Contact us to find out more.

Frequently asked questions about getting a second opinion for prostate cancer treatment

Will my primary healthcare provider be offended if I seek a second opinion on prostate cancer treatment?

No, your primary healthcare provider will not be offended if you seek a second opinion. Doctors’ guidelines state they must respect your right to seek a second opinion for your cancer treatment. All of the consultant oncologists we work with are supportive of a patient’s right to obtain the view of another clinician and would actively encourage it if it would help their patient manage their cancer journey.

Should I get a second opinion for low-risk prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is described as “low-risk” if it is only found in the prostate and often grows very slowly or doesn’t grow at all. Men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer are increasingly opting against immediate treatment and choosing active surveillance instead.

You may wish to seek a second opinion for peace of mind or help confirm your diagnosis.

Is it too late to get a second opinion if I have advanced prostate cancer?

Advanced prostate cancer means the cancer has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body. It is sometimes called advanced prostate cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, around 95% of men will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. You may wish to seek a second opinion to explore alternative treatment options or verify your treatment plan.

Dr Beatrice Seddon Medical Director and Clinical Oncologist Proton International London

This article has been clinically reviewed by Proton International Medical Director and Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Dr Beatrice Seddon. Dr Seddon specialises in the use of radiotherapy (including proton beam therapy) and chemotherapy for the management of soft tissue and bone sarcomas.

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