The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I may have borrowed that title from a song, whose meaning was entirely different, but the words also hold true when talking about test results.

At our Cytodiagnostic Center, one of our driving principles is to deliver accurate results in real time to our patients, so that they don’t have to wait for a report.

As a pathologist, I can tell you how it usually goes.waiting-room1

You visit your doctor on a Monday. According to a study you recently had, a nodule in your thyroid needs to be biopsied. Your doctor recommends the biopsy and refers you to a radiologist to do it. You call to make the appointment, and the radiologist can’t see you until the following Thursday. The biopsy day arrives and you’ve already been thinking about it for over a week, worried about the procedure and the results that may come from it. You have the biopsy at the radiology practice, but the specimen that the radiologist takes has to be sent out to a laboratory to be processed and read by a pathologist, who will issue the final report with the diagnosis. The specimen will not arrive in the laboratory until Friday, and will be processed over the weekend. On Monday, two weeks after you have seen your doctor, the specimen is on the pathologist’s desk and is ready to be signed out. Because it is a busy day and a lot of work has been processed over the weekend, the pathologist might not get to your specimen that day, and your final report may not be ready until the following day or the day after that. When the final report is issued it will be faxed to your doctor and then you need to come in to discuss the results. You may have to wait another week for an appointment.

How long has this whole process taken? THREE WEEKS! What have you been doing all this time? Worrying, stressed out, thinking you have cancer or something worse (I don’t know what that could be….).

The physiologic affects on your body that are associated with waiting time for a diagnosis were documented in a 2009 study from Harvard published in the journal Radiology. It seems that distress associated with knowledge about biopsy results and lack of knowledge of results is reflected in abnormal salivary cortisol profiles in women who received breast core needle biopsies from a radiologist. Cortisol is part of the family of glucocorticoids, and stress induced imbalances in the secretion of these hormones have been associated with the immune response and impaired wound healing.  In fact, the salivary cortisol profiles of women who have not been informed of their diagnosis by day 5 after their biopsy procedure were abnormal to the extent that they were essentially indistinguishable from the profiles of women who have learned that they have malignant disease.

The bottom line is: the longer you wait, the more stressed out you become, the more impact it has on your overall health and well being.

At our Cytodiagnostic Center, we strive to give you the most accurate diagnosis with the least amount of waiting time. We obtain diagnostic material, process it on site, read it immediately and give you the answer you came for all within one visit. Our final reports are issued within 24 hours, in most cases.

Treatment begins at the time of diagnosis. We know how important those results are to our patients.