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Waiting for breast biopsy results can be a scary time

It’s normal to be worried while waiting for results of a breast biopsy. Breast Care Nurse Eve Smith explains how long results usually take and what you can do to manage anxiety.

How long do breast biopsy results take? 

Most people will get the result of their breast biopsy within 7 to 10 days.  

Some people may get their results a bit sooner, and for some people it may be longer depending on whether more tests need to be done on the tissue.  

People often wonder why it takes this long.  

Once tissue from the biopsy has been looked at in the laboratory, the results need to be discussed by a team of healthcare professionals, alongside the results of any other investigations you had.  

This happens in a meeting that takes place usually once a week, and you’ll only get the results after this meeting has happened. This meeting is called a multi-disciplinary team meeting or MDM. 

If I have cancer will my biopsy results come back faster? 

No. How long you have to wait does not reflect what the result will be. 

The speed at which it’s done only reflects the process within a particular clinic.  

How will I get my results? 

You may get your results face to face, over the telephone or by letter.  

This varies across the country, so check when and how you’re likely to get your results before you leave hospital.  

If you don’t know how you’ll be getting your results, you can ask the hospital. This may be by contacting the surgeon’s secretary or the breast unit. 

It can be frightening if someone doesn’t know how they’re going to get their results and then gets a phone call asking them to go to the clinic.  

Sometimes that’s just the way that unit works. When it’s known the results are going to be ready some people may be contacted by phone to give them an appointment.  

What happens at a biopsy results appointment? 

You’ll be told your results, and there are three possibilities: it’s benign (which means it’s not cancer), it’s cancer or it’s indeterminate.  

Indeterminate means the result is unclear and you may need another biopsy or other tests to get a definite answer.  

Whatever the result, it’s a good opportunity to ask any questions you’ve had in your mind. For example, if you’re told it’s benign, will you need any other tests or procedures, or will you be discharged?  

The results will go to your GP and you can also ask for a copy to be sent to you. That will be another opportunity for you to look at the results.  

If there’s anything in your results that you’re unsure of, you can call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.  

Can I bring someone with me?  

At the moment, because of coronavirus restrictions, most places are not allowing you to bring anybody else with you to your appointments, although some are. 

If you have to go on your own, you could ask the doctor or nurse if you can record what they’re saying. It’s not essential, but it’s easy to forget things you’re told.   

You can use your phone to record the conversation. 

Is it normal to feel scared? 

It’s normal to be very anxious when you’re waiting for results.  

Some people say waiting for results is the most worrying part of the whole process, whatever the outcome is.  

It’s very common to worry about the possibility of cancer. However, it’s important to remember that until you have your results, these are thoughts and not facts.  

I often suggest people remind themselves of what they actually know. A good way of doing that is to write down what you’ve been told up to now and what the facts are about your situation.  

It’s also a good idea to call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000 if you’d like to talk about your worries.  

What can I do to cope with the worry? 

We all cope differently in times of stress. 

Some people cope by keeping busy or distracting themselves. Others use calming breathing exercises or mindfulness and relaxation.  

What’s not helpful is to start looking for information online about breast cancer.  

Googling breast cancer is often what drives people’s anxiety. Remember that any information you find online at this point will not be specific to your situation.  

It’s a much better idea to look for information on managing worry or anxiety while you’re waiting for your results.  

Support for you

Waiting for biopsy results can be a very worrying time. Our nurses are here for you if you need to talk things through. 

Call the helpline

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