A majority of women experience a sense of shock and disbelief after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Framing the treatment plan early on may help to provide relief from their anxiety and distress. One of the most fearful and devastating phases occurs during the evaluation and diagnosis stage while waiting for biopsy results following an abnormal mammogram, and at the start of treatment immediately after the diagnosis of breast cancer has been confirmed. The medical agencies should strive to minimize delayed treatment in order to prevent the negative effects of delayed treatment. However, because breast cancer is not a medical emergency, one should carefully focus on important factors such as choosing the best surgeon and treatment options.
The effect of delayed treatment on outcome is poorly determined in patients with breast cancer.
The increase in the time interval between the diagnosis and treatment is attributed to many factors. Women are encouraged to make self-decisions about their treatment. Some women seek a second opinion. Before the surgery young woman may choose to visit a fertility clinic for discussion of the latest fertility treatment modes such as IVF. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer may opt to undergo genetic counseling. The rate of women undergoing contralateral prophylactic mastectomy as a preventive measure is increasing.
The proliferation of imaging studies, especially MRI also adds to the increasing treatment delay.
Treatment delays of approximately 40-60 days do not influence oncologic outcome, however may influence patient satisfaction, anxiety, and decision making. Providing appropriate education and counseling can help patients deal with treatment delay in a simple manner.