Skip to main content

Testing Biopsy and Cytology Specimens for Cancer

Waiting to hear about test results can be very stressful - and sometimes it can take a while to get lab results back. This can be even harder when you're waiting to see if there is a change in a blood result, to know if a tumor or biopsy result is cancer, or to find out if cancer has come back. You may be going through some strong emotions, including disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. It's important to know that it's normal to have those feelings. It may help you to talk with others about it, or you may want to keep it private.

You might be concerned about how long tests results are taking. You might be wondering if waiting for test results will affect when you can start treatment. It's important to know that each patient's situation is different, and any questions you have about your test results can be answered best by your cancer care team.

It can help to have a better understanding of the testing process used to diagnose and classify cancer. Knowing some of this information, and asking your doctor questions, can help you understand how different test results affect treatment options and why some test results may take longer than others. It can also help you know what questions to ask so you can work with your doctors to make the best decisions about your treatment.

You’ll probably have a chance to meet and ask questions of most of your health care team, which may include a surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, oncology nurses, pharmacists, and many others. You’ll be able to see what these professionals do. On the other hand, you rarely meet the pathologists, histotechnologists, cytotechnologists, and medical laboratory technologists who tell you whether the cells in your biopsy sample are cancer or not.