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Just Diagnosed with Cancer? Chat with Experts

Saturday, August 30, 2008 Sharla, Community Member, asks

Q: Approximately how long does it take from the time you are diagnosed to the time you get treatment?

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my left breast in May, the day after mother's day actually.  Since then, I have had a lumpectomy & lymph node dissection, along with breast cancer genetic testing, bone scan, ct scan, & finally a breast mri.  My tumor did not come back with clean margins & they found something suspicious in my right breast which they plan on biopsing.  I'm frustrated that it's taking so long to get my treatment (chemo) started.  What is the usual "path" that most doctors take when they first diagnose a patient with breast cancer?  And is my case taking too long?  Should I get a second opinion?

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Answers (6)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
9/ 1/08 8:37am

Sharia, usually chemo doesn't start until the incision has had time to heal, tests have checked for metastasis, and the pathology report has given information about the tumor type so that the best chemo can be chosen.  Usually all of that can be taken care of in about three weeks.  Docs hesitate to start chemo with an unhealed incision because the chemo is going to reduce your immune system's ability to deal with infection.  Since your original lumpectomy didn't get clean margins and more surgery needed to be done, your chemo had to be postponed.  Still from mid-May to September seems like an awfully long delay.  A second opinion could set your mind at ease about the cause of these delays or give you the information you need to get the rest of the treatment started.

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s, Community Member
8/31/08 11:06pm

Are you in the States/Canada?  I would get a second opinion. I got one for myself. I got diagnosed Dec 6 2006 had tests the next week and mascectomy2-3 weeks later , chemo end of Jan , radiation in the summer. See if your GP can speed things up for you.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
9/ 1/08 5:00pm

Sharla, all that testing must have taken forever! I'm kind of surprised they did the genetic testing, bone scan and CT scan AND an MRI without really getting anything started other than doing the lumpectomy. One thing I can say - summer is always slower, due to vacations. I think you just kind of had a bunch of regrettable (but understandable) delays, due to the great number of tests you've had, and they've all added up to a long wait. I will say, I was diagnosed May 10, and didn't start chemo till Aug. 30, so I don't think you're that far off if you finally do get started pretty soon... Also, understand that the majority of breast cancers are very slow growing; it takes about 8 years for a typical tumor to become large enough to show up on a mammogram. So there's every chance you've had this cancer quite a long time without knowing it. Looked at from that point of view, another couple of months isn't too much to stress about. But still... see if you can rattle some cages and get this show on the road! Ask the docs what the projected timeframe is, then ge tthem to stick to it. Good luck - PJH

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CAROL, Community Member
9/13/08 8:46pm

You can read my story, located on Breast Cancer, dated today, September 13.

My open biopsy was on February 29 (leap year, which I will never forget), testing, MRI's, mediports, meetings and appointments....and I started Chemo on March 18.

Surgery one month after Chemo, July 28, and radiation one month after, which I am currently going through.

I was told I have a cPR, which is a complete pathological response, to my Chemo.  My pathology report was negative.

I would talk to someone.  Maybe they have a reason. Check it out first before your think about switching.

I asked a lot of questions....and I had a breast conference with a surgeon, oncologist, radiation oncologist, nurse, dietician, social worker, breast cancer survivor.  They helped a lot, and answered everything....then I made my decisions.  

I worked closely with my oncologist...and we made the right decisions...for I am cancer free.  

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CAROL, Community Member
9/13/08 8:48pm

Sorry, I didn't finish...my bone scan was negative. my blood work is perfect. 

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Linda, Community Member
10/14/08 2:14pm

I was diagnosed on 6/6/08. I had a bilateral mastectomy on 6/20/08. Started chemotherapy on 7/29/08 and have a consult on 10/27/08 for breast reconstruction. Somewhere in between I also had genetic testing. So once you're diagnosed, things move pretty quickly.Smile

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By Sharla, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/16/12, First Published: 08/30/08