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About Tests

Testing is an important part of cancer diagnosis and treatment. You will be tested at many different points of your cancer journey.

Before you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctor will order tests to be done. These tests may include:

  • blood tests
  • biopsies
  • medical imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, ultrasound or CT scans
  • other tests

The results of these tests can help your health care team determine whether or not you have cancer, and if you do, what type of cancer you have.

Many people think that after they are diagnosed with cancer the testing will end. In fact, you will be tested throughout your treatment and after your treatment has ended. These tests help your health care team monitor your treatment and your health.

You can ask any member of your health care team about the purpose of the tests you will have. They can explain to you how the test works and what it will tell them about your condition.

Find out more about the labs and test centres at The Princess Margaret and what you can expect.

Waiting for Results

At different stages in your cancer journey, you may have to wait to hear the results of a test. It could be a blood test, CT scan, X-ray, biopsy, nuclear medicine image or one of many other tests used to detect cancer and the side effects of treatment. This waiting period can be very hard. Some patients refer to this feeling as “scanxiety”, a blend of the words "scan" and "anxiety".

“Scanxiety” is a very real and normal feeling. You may notice that the feeling changes based on the type of results you are waiting for. If you are just being diagnosed, you may fear the unknown. This fear may be greater if you do not know about treatment options or how cancer affects your life.

During treatment, you may worry about test results that tell you if your treatment is working or not. After treatment, your concerns may focus on cancer coming back or side effects. These results can often have a big impact on you. This includes the chance of celebrating remission (that your cancer has gone away) or the relief of knowing what is causing symptoms.

In any case, waiting for results can be a hard time for many people. You may find that the following tips help:

1. Acknowledge Your “Scanxiety”

  • Notice your feelings. Sometimes, trying to ignore your feelings takes more energy than being aware of your feelings.
  • Try talking to a friend or family member who listens well. They may feel anxious too, and relieved that you are talking about it.
  • You may want to write in a journal instead of talking about your scanxiety. This way you can express your thoughts without having to go anywhere or share them with anyone.
  • Talk to counsellors, social workers and support groups about how you are feeling.

2. Prepare for Getting Your Results

  • Mark on your calendar when you expect to get your results. Note if you will get them by phone or in a follow-up appointment with your doctor. This gives you something to focus on. If you are not sure when or how you will get your results, ask your doctor or nurse.
    You can also see your results online on the myUHN Patient Portal. myUHN is a secure website for patients of University Health Network (UHN). The website lets you safely see your appointments and results from all UHN sites as soon as they are ready. To see your results on the myUHN Patient Portal:
    • Ask for a registration code when you check in for your next appointment
    • Call myUHN Support at 416 340 3777
  • Prepare a list of questions that you think you may have when you get your results. What information do you need? Try to remember what you needed to know the last time you got a result. This can help you make sure you find out this time.
  • Think about who you want with you when you get your results. Would you like to bring a friend or family member? What would you like them to do to help out? For example, they could:
    • Give you a ride to the appointment
    • Write down questions and answers
    • Give you some time to process the results you receive
  • Make sure you tell your family and friends what you need. Understand that they may need to seek support too.

3. Do What Has Helped You Before

  • It may help to keep busy with work or other activities while you are waiting. Try and plan to have something to do during this time.
  • It can be hard to sleep while you are waiting for results. Speak to your primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) if it is hard to get enough sleep.
  • “Scanxiety” can make it hard to focus on work or other things. Do what works best for you during this time. Care for yourself as much as possible. Caring for yourself can include:
    • Getting more rest
    • Light exercise
    • Talking or writing about how you are feeling
    • Seeing a show
    • Listening to music
    • Reading
    • Sharing a laugh
    • Watching a game with friends
    • Whatever you like best
  • Think about what has worked for you before while waiting for something important, or ask others for ideas.

As tough as the waiting period can be, the results will come. In the meantime, help yourself get through the waiting the best way you can. It may help to:

  • Notice and accept your feelings
  • Prepare for the results
  • Use coping methods that have worked in the past
  • Try new ways to deal with the wait​

Last reviewed: 7/11/2022
Last modified: 11/3/2023 6:58 AM
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