Each patient’s case is unique. In order to determine exactly what your individual cancer profile is like, your doctor needs to run various tests to gather as much information about your cancer as possible. The more knowledge you and your doctor have about your case, the better and more comprehensive your treatment may be.
Again, just as your cancer is as individual as you are, the way your doctor performs these tests may vary as well. Some doctors may run tests after an initial biopsy, while others may order tests to be done after a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. Each test generates results, or lab reports which your doctor adds to your file. These reports are collectively referred to as your pathology report.
Your pathology report will provide your doctor with a comprehensive view of your diagnosis. Details will include the size of the cancerous mass, what it looks like, and how fast the mass grows. More importantly, this report details whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, as well as the likelihood of the cancer spreading. In addition, this report often details whether hormones or genetics have played a part in the cancer’s origin and growth. Once you and your doctor are armed with this knowledge, your doctor can work with you to determine the best course of action to treat the cancer.
One important part of waiting for your pathology report is knowing that the report is built over a period of time and consists of several reports. As these tests may take different amounts of time to process, and may not be done by the same laboratories, the results and reports may come back to you at different times. It may be difficult for you to wait for certain tests, and the anxiety or stress in waiting for specific tests is understandable. Not fixating upon a specific test or result, and being patient in waiting for all of your reports to come back from the lab may be difficult for you, but knowing that waiting for the all of the pieces to come back so that your doctor can construct a complete profile of your cancer is worth the wait.
In addition, make sure you communicate with your doctor and your doctor’s office; if a report seems to have taken a long time, feel free to call and confirm with your doctor’s office to see if it has been received. If you think you should have had a specific test that was not done, speak to your doctor, as tissue samples are kept by labs for a long period of time, and can usually be retested. If you do not understand a report or result, speak up and ask for clarification. Your doctor will keep all of these test results in your pathology report, but you may want to keep copies of these reports as well.