These series of post review the initial journey patients who are awaiting test results regarding a possible cancer diagnosis must go through. It’ s almost a rite of passage, if you will.
There you are, moving about your daily routine in a daze. A test was just done to further evaluate something that is abnormal. The result is not yet known and chances are, it could be another week before any report is available. The wait is maddening, but no one seem acknowledge it. The “wait” and the “not knowing” is the absolute worse part of the whole journey. At least at the beginning.
Age does’t matter. Unfortunately, some are too young to know to worry (age 3, 4, 7), while others consider themselves too old to care enough to worry (or wise enough?) But the ones in between worry the most … and arguably with good reason.
And so the wait continues …
- The lump in the neck that would not go away with antibiotics
- The blood and change in the stool
- Getting called back for additional imaging after a routine mammogram
- A routine scan prepping for elective surgery that saw something in the lung
- The first PSA that was very elevated and evidence of infection of the prostate
I’ve often been asked by family, friends, or associates who happen to find themselves in the waiting posture, “Is there anyway I can do to get the results faster? What am I suppose to do while I wait?” Both are very difficult questions to answer. However, I know they are not the first (or the last) who will experience this process, so thought I would share with you my responses. Lets just address one of the questions today.
Why are the results taking so long?
Patients would all like to know the answers … yesterday. However, your team wants to make sure they are given the correct answers to the question, “Is this cancer? If it is, what type is it?”
- Radiology/ Imaging: Computed Tomography (CT scan/Cat Scan), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), PET-CT, etc., – All these tests must be reviewed by a Radiologist, whose job it is to describe in details what they see and why it is abnormal. This is the next best thing for looking inside the body, short of a surgical procedure. A CT scan is great for some things, but if the abnormality need to be further characterized to look for invasion of certain tissue, or a different look at the brain, then an MRI is a much better scan. Depending on the institution and how busy the Radiologist are (there are many other imaging for other patients to read) the turn around is usually 3 – 5 days. Whenever a Radiology test is recommended, be sure to ask, “when can I expect to hear from you about the results? If I do not hear from you in that time frame, how do I best contact you, or the team for information?” These simple questions can make all the difference
- Biopsies: the turn-around time for tissue sample taken and sent to the lab can vary tremendously. First, it must be determined if the sample is abnormal or not. If it is determined to be cancerous, then there are various stains that must be done to verify that it is cancer and then what type of cancer. These stain, by default, must be left on the sample for set period of time for them to work properly – could be a few hours to a couple days. There is no way to rush that process. If it is lung cancer, it is non-small cell or small cell lung cancer? Are there any receptors positive that would direct treatment? The turn-around time is usually 3 – 7 days.
These are only 2 of the many possible tests that an Oncologist (cancer doctor) may order to rule out cancer. Be sure to ask s/he what each test is meant to evaluate, for better understanding of the reason for ordering the test(s). Learn about some of the possible test and procedures involved with the diagnostic process in Cancer Course 101.
Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!
Until next time,
Ipsa Scientia Potestas est ——— Knowledge itself is power!
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Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!