Time between diagnosis and treatment

It seems over the past few years I have been running into more people who are saying the doctors saw soemthing unusual on an x-ray. Then over the next 4 to 8 weeks they are going through diagnostic tests, and then maybe a month or two before they start treatment.

Is this just typical for modern medicine. It seems they go through a lot of stress just not knowing if they have cancer or not.

Depends on how urgent the issue is. You want to be sure you’re treating them for the appropriate disease, after all. Mysterious blobs on an X-ray can be very vague, very difficult to figure out, and may be nothing at all. False positive diagnoses can lead to expensive, painful, potentially harmful unnecessary treatments.

More potentially urgent things will get treated ASAP. A detached retina needs treatment the same day or you risk further, permanent vision damage (assuming some hasn’t already been caused).

My husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol (and no known familial history), and his doctor opted to suggest dietary changes and followup appointments every three months or so, and didn’t prescribe medications until a year of that hadn’t worked. But he had mild high blood pressure. Show up in a doctor’s office with 160/110 BP and you’re probably being admitted to the hospital that day.

At my first mammo, after the first images were taken, I was then sent immediately to ultrasound and ‘squeezed in’. While there three techs/Drs came into the suite and looked at the images, never once speaking to me or even making eye contact. I was told to redress and when I popped out of the change room there was a nice nurse with a paper with an appointment for a biopsy scheduled for three days later. Her explanation? “We know your Dr will order this anyway!” I left the hospital in a daze, unsure what to think. Had the test three days later, yikes, hard not to worry!

Turns out it was simply an irregularity in breast tissue from one breast to the other, and nothing to be concerned about! My PCP told me to expect more biopsies in the years to come because of how the images read!

But I have to say, I would never have imagined the system could/would respond so quickly to such a thing. I was very impressed indeed.

I had about five months of being shuffled from one doctor to another after I started having intermittent syncope episodes after an accident. There never seemed to be much urgency.

Then my primary care doctor ordered a Holter Monitor. He got the results and called me. He had already set up a cardiologist referral for the same day and advised me to go to that appointment expecting to be admitted for surgery the same day.

So… when certain diagnoses comes in it can make things move fast.

For all our imaging techniques and new advances in medicine, there are still a lot of random bumps and lesions that we are not certain about. A diagnosis of cancer is nothing to sneeze at, and when all you have to go on is an irregularly shaped something on a chest xray or chest CT, you don’t want to go nuts and order bronchoscopies or biopsies or even tons of more images that will expose the patient to more radiation and contrast dye and other stuff*. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes we have to see if things change over time. If it changes a lot in a very short period of time, it’s actually more likely to be something infectious. If it doesn’t change at all, it could be something as simple as some scar tissue from a previous infection. If it changes a little, then we might worry, but that depends on a number of other factors too.

*Some of this changing a little. The latest US Preventative Services Task Force for lung cancer screening is now recommending annual low-dose CT for certain patient populations. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.