Normal Procedure for Diagnosis?

I’m very worried about a close friend. I feel that she may not be telling me everything. I know she’s seen a doctor about lumps in her breast, but she says it’s all OK. I heard from a friend she had a scan, but she denies it to me. She seems really down.

She has this thing about only telling people things that she thinks they need to know, so if she has been formally diagnosed, she probably doesn’t want me worrying and so therefore hasn’t told me. My concern here is that she needs support, and has been bottling things up, which isn’t going to help anyone.

My question is what is the normal procedure for people who have suspected breast cancer? How long from when the lumps are noticed to the first scan? How long do the results take? How long until it’s known if the lumps are cancerous or benign?

Thanks for any help anyone can give!

Hi MF, it really depends on which area you live as to the speed of results. At my local hospital its a “one-stop” clinic (Mammo / biopsy etc ) and I left the same day knowing I had BC and a date for the operation. Other ladies who write on here generally wait an average of 1-2 weeks. If you know which hospital she is likely to have attended you could call them and ask what their procedure is - if it is a “same day” results I would guess your friend already knows. As you say, your friend prob doesnt want to worry you, so maybe she does not know yet - no news is good news - I wish her all the luck in the world for good results. Regards, Debbie

It is lovely that you are so concerned about your friend. BUT! l think you need to leave it to her to tell you whatever she feels she wants you to know. Whether she has been diagnosed or still waiting for results, she needs time for herself. It is very difficult to say how long from seeing a doctor to diagnosis, everywhere is different.

I think if you have heard from a friend that she has had a scan, you should leave it at that! and not put any pressure on your friend. She sounds as if she is a very private person, and no matter how much you are worried about her, you need to respect her wishes.
She will come to you when she feels the time is right!
IF she has been diagnosed, she will have all the support she needs at the moment from the breast care nurses, so please try not to worry about her too much.
Sandra x

Thanks for the response Debbie, she first mentioned something about the lumps being found during a routine check-up in November last year.

It all went quiet after that, and I didn’t think it was too wise to continue asking about it. I asked in March this year and apparently the nurse who examined her said in a fairly blasé way “oh you’ll be fine, you’re only in your 20’s” - not really what you want to hear.

What I’m trying to work out is the realistic time-scale from first referral to a specialist to confirmed “yes/no” test results, as my suspicion is that she had a confirmation in late April this year, and has been trying to bottle things since then. Is November to March a realistic scale?

Sandra: the situation between us is fairly complicated (I’m male) and she’s been very off-ish with me recently, moreso in the last few weeks but definitely since this “scan” in late April. I say “scan” because she denies all knowledge, and her friend later said that she was mistaken and that I should forget all about it.

I’m obviously not going to “break the door down” so-to-speak, but just trying to do my own research to ease my own mind.

I know I couldn’t speak to anyone in the initial stages. Why don’t you write your loving caring thoughts to her on a card or an e-mail and then she will know that you are there for her and when she’s ready she may e-mail you back or let you know if there is anything practical you can offer.

One friend offered me a lift and promised not to talk. It was such a relief as the speaking is so very draining! Your friend needs to know you care but the answers to questions can wait…
Difficult for you but it will comfort her.

Welsh girl

The very best wishes to your friend with her results. It is such a horrid time for her.

Hi again MF, If any sort of diagnosis took place back in November I think unless she refused treatment your friend would be well into her treatment/surgery by now if any was required. There are so many different scenarios depending on what they find. Some of us have surgery first, then chemo and radiotherapy or vice versa. Its unlikely that any of these have happend cos they would be almost impossible to conceal if you see her regularly. It is a tricky situation and we all react differently but I would agree with the other comments that you must be guided by her. I liked the suggestion that perhaps you send her a note telling her you are there for her . I hope everything turns out ok for both of you. Debbie x

Hi Debbie and Welsh girl,
Thanks for the comments. The difficult thing (and one of the reasons why things are so "complicated) is that I’m at university and she is in London, so we hardly see each other for more than a weekend at a time.

I highly doubt if she has had any kind of surgery, as I agree it would be fairly hard to hide. I really just wanted to confirm the time-scale with people who would know, as my knowledge (as I’m sure you can imagine) is fairly low on the subject - I know the NHS has a reputation for taking months to get anything done so I wasn’t sure if I was being overly paranoid.

I might try and talk to her about it next week as I’m finishing university in the next few days, but obviously I’m not going to charging in - I may be completely wrong, the lumps may have turned out to be benign.

Thanks again for all the help. A follow up question: if she does turn out to have breast cancer (of whatever stage), what are the “right” things to do/say? I realise from reading a few posts on here that the partner doesn’t always react in the “right” way, and I obviously want to avoid that.

I obviously care about her a lot, and I want to be able to help and support her in whatever way she needs.

Thank again.

Hi MF, although different areas have slightly different time scales, once a diagnosis of BC has been made its usually a couple of weeks maximum until treatment in whatever form gets underway. Personally, I had my op less than 3 weeks after initial diagnosis. I hope when you see your friend next that all is ok. Lets hope she just had a scare and is fine - the chances of her having BC are much much lower because of her age (but of course not impossible) take care x

I saw the GP who referred me to the hospital. One week later I had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy and was told then it was probable I had cancer by the doc that did the ultrasound. A week later I had the official results, and two weeks later, a lumpectomy and node biopsy. A month after that, node clearance.

Maybe your girlfriend was told her lumps were cysts and unlikely to be cancer as you say.

I think there’s a very long waiting list for say, knee replacements, but for something like cancer, the waiting time is much less.

I was told when diagnosed last year that the NICE guideline from diagnose to the start of treatment is a month. (Not sure whether that has changed)

So if it is cancer, it more likely has been dealt with already. It’s very likely to be a cyst at her age. But, being in the 20s myself, it can happen!

Sounds like your girlfriend is a very private person, too. No offence here, a bit sounds like me. I didn’t tell anyone apart from 2 of my best friends and they went to all the appointments with me initially. When all the test results and scan results have come back and all of them have confirmed that it is indeed cancer, I asked them to relay the news to all the others, so that I won’t be bombarded with awkward questions.

If she wants to talk, let her talk and just listen. If she doesn’t want to talk, then leave her to it. Be considerate and caring is how I would like to be treated by friends and family.

Take care & hope all goes well when you see her next time