Should I be worried about waiting for a biopsy?
October 7, 2021 4:59 PM   Subscribe

A breast ultrasound turned up something suspicious. I'm scheduled for a core needle biopsy about a month from now. Should I try to get a referral elsewhere, or should I just take a deep breath and chill out?

I got my first (3D) mammogram last week. They had me come back a couple of days later for an ultrasound, which they said was common for a first-timer. I went back for that and spoke to a nurse immediately afterward. She said it was suspicious and I'd need a core needle biopsy. She apologized for the delay of a few weeks until that can happen, and said they'll try to get me in earlier if possible. However, they only have one breast surgeon currently and are overwhelmed

This week, I did some research about the findings from the ultrasound. The questionable mass is 1) taller than it is wide, 2) hypoechoic, and 3) irregular.

Though I know that most core needle biopsies turn out benign, these three traits in particular appear to be highly correlated with a finding of breast cancer.

The nurse said that they would get results as soon as within 24 hours of the biopsy, up to 48 hours, which seems pretty good to me.

Does it matter, in terms of physical health, whether I could find someone to do the biopsy earlier? If you had a similar finding on your ultrasound, what was your time frame like?

As a probably irrelevant aside, a nurse I talked to about an unrelated medical matter today suggested I might want to go to a larger breast cancer specialty center eventually anyway, such as Sloane Kettering. That would be incredibly inconvenient, although I believe my insurance would cover it.

I know You Are Not My Doctor and This Is Not Medical Advice. Yes, I am a little freaked out right now, and yes, I will talk to my therapist soon. Thank you for reading this whole thing.
posted by kutsushita nyanko to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Get it ASAP if only for your mental health. I can't imagine waiting a month to get a biopsy, even though if that happens I am sure you will still do well.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:03 PM on October 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

No, find another place if you can, preferably a breast cancer specialty center. If you had been in one for your mammogram, you would have gotten the mammogram, then been whisked down the hall for the ultrasound, then been whisked further down the hall for the needle biopsy. This is exactly what happened to me at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. By lunchtime I knew it was benign. A month is too long to wait and they're only doing it because they lack the resources to do it sooner.
posted by HotToddy at 5:11 PM on October 7, 2021 [16 favorites]

I’d say chill unless you can get another appointment by the next day.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:46 PM on October 7, 2021

This EXACT thing happened to me. I asked them to contact me if there were any cancellations, but ended up having to wait the month out, which was really hard. However, everything turned out to be benign. Breasts tissue can be strange and still be normal. Try to remember that the vast majority of breast irregularities turn out to be benign. “Suspicious “ at this point just means they need to take a closer look—especially if this was your first 3D/ultrasound. They don’t have anything to compare it to.

Also—if you do end up having to wait, I highly recommend staying off the internet. Dr. Google is NOT your friend. I did a lot of my own research while I was waiting and it was NOT good for my mental health. I know it’s hard, but really, try not to go there. People who have happy endings after biopsies rarely go online to share that info. You’re getting skewed info.

I’m sorry you’re going through this stress. Sending good vibes your way!
posted by bookmammal at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

If, heaven forbid, the biopsy turns out to be not benign, you are going to want to be treated at Sloane anyway, IMO. I would not wait.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 6:29 PM on October 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Worry makes everything worse. Get in sooner, find a place with more than one surgeon.
posted by Oyéah at 7:08 PM on October 7, 2021

I’m a breast cancer survivor. I have had 2 biopsies, one was fine, the next was malignant. So here are my thoughts:

A month is a really long time to wait for a biopsy. I had mine done within a couple of days and this was just at a stand-alone mammography place not a fancy cancer center. From a physical standpoint you’re probably fine to wait, but mentally that would be tough for me. You should judge for yourself how upsetting or stressful the wait would be for you.

Regarding the big cancer center vs local place -
IF you have breast cancer know that there is a huge volume of breast cancer treatment being done all over the country. If cancer is early stage and/or the oncologist is highly confident about curative treatment, I don’t think it’s worth tons of inconvenience. For later stage or metastatic cancers it is probably worth it - that’s where the expertise and clinical trials may really count. It also isn’t a matter of choosing one or the other. I had chemo and rads at my local hospital (after getting a second opinion on my care plan from a big academic medical center) but had my surgery at a big academic medical center because the surgeon there had done fellowship training. It’s common for people to do surgery or even chemo at a big center, and then get radiation at a place closer to home.

But you probably don’t need any of that information! Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and schedule somewhere else.
posted by jeoc at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

Do you have a family history of breast cancer? That can emphasize getting a result faster.
posted by nickggully at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Listen, my Mom had a tiny breast cancer, and she got it taken care of via radiology. So don't assume what you have or have not is a big thing.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:00 PM on October 7, 2021

I’m an oncologist… when I order a biopsy on *anything* I want it to be done and resulted within two weeks. Sometimes, there are insurance hangups; other times, it’s scheduling limitations with radiologists. I will allow up to 5 business days for the pathology to result before I start making phone calls - I don’t want the pathologist to make the call because I’m rushing them, but in the multiple hospitals in several states that I have worked at, 5 days seems universally to be the acceptable maximum to get at least a preliminary “is/is not cancer” result. With breast cancer, there are other tests that may take a bit longer to result but which help with treatment decisions and prognostication.

I wouldn’t wait if I didn’t have to.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2021 [15 favorites]

When doctors decided after routine mammograms that I needed core needle biopsy done, they wanted me to show up the next day for the procedure. And one of these was during covid lockdown period. So I am really surprised at the delay of a month.
posted by needled at 6:15 AM on October 8, 2021

Like jeoc, I am a breast cancer survivor with one malignant and one benign biopsy under my belt. A month delay is a long time. I would not cope well mentally with the waiting. And I agree with those above who say that if it is cancer, it's a good idea to go to Sloan (or another large, well-respected research hospital) for treatment anyway. I would try to get in sooner for peace of mind.
posted by something something at 7:11 AM on October 8, 2021

Breast cancer survivor here. Get your biopsy ASAP, and disregard the advice about waiting a month if there's no history of breast cancer in your family—there was none in mine either.
posted by smich at 9:29 AM on October 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

One more voice to encourage you to get the biopsy done as soon as possible. A month wait is not normal and not acceptable.
posted by fies at 10:40 AM on October 9, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, everyone. My metro area is fairly small so there doesn't seem to be another option in town. I'll call the office tomorrow and make sure I'm on the emergency cancellation list, if nothing else.
posted by kutsushita nyanko at 11:49 AM on October 11, 2021

Response by poster: Good news: They got me in early and it's *not* cancer!
posted by kutsushita nyanko at 7:30 PM on October 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

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