There are targets for waiting times that hospitals should work towards.
Having to wait
Being diagnosed with cancer can sometimes take a while. At times, just about everyone will have to wait to have tests or to get the results. Sometimes people have to wait for appointments to begin their treatment. This can be frustrating and difficult to cope with.
The government has set targets for maximum waiting times for urgent referrals and to start treatment.
Waiting for tests
Doctors do various tests, such as CT scans, MRI scans or ultrasounds, to get as much information about the cancer as possible. This helps them to work out the stage of the cancer. The stage of the cancer refers to the size and whether it has spread. This helps your doctor decide which treatment is best for you.
Unfortunately, you might have to wait for an appointment for some of these tests. This could be because there is pressure on your local hospital due to the number of people needing certain scans. Some types of specialised scans are only available in larger hospitals. So you might need to go to another hospital for your scan, which can increase the length of time you wait.
Waiting for scan results
It can take time for scan results to come through. A specialist doctor needs to examine your scan and type up a report. They send the report to your cancer specialist who will give you the results.
It usually takes a couple of weeks for the results to come through. But it might be ready sooner if your doctor puts urgent on the scan request form.
Waiting to start treatment
In an ideal world, people would start treatment within a month of being diagnosed. The government have set waiting time targets in England and Wales for treating people with cancer. Waiting time targets set by the Scottish Government and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland are the same. The current targets are:
- no more than 2 months (62 days) wait between the date the hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of treatment
- no more than 31 days wait between the meeting at which you and your doctor agree the treatment plan and the start of treatment
You might have to wait longer if you need extra tests to fully diagnose the cancer.
Most hospitals are meeting this target. But in the UK, waiting times can vary depending on the type of cancer and the type of treatment you are going to have.