Thanks to better treatments and earlier diagnosis there has been a huge increase in the number of people who are surviving cancer. In this section we provide some basic information about cancer diagnosis. There are numerous links that will take you to recommended sources of more detailed information.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have symptoms you are worried about or if you have simply noticed changes in your normal bodily processes it is really worth having a check up with your GP. Spotting cancer early can make treatment much easier and improve outcomes. Your GP may be able to reassure you that there is nothing serious for you to worry about. She/he may decide to refer you for further tests to find out more about what is causing your symptoms.
There are a number of websites that provide helpful information about signs and symptoms that you should look out for and about going to see your doctor:
Achieving an accurate diagnosis of cancer is important as this will decide what treatment and care is best for each patient. It is important to know the type of cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. In most cases treatment will not start until a diagnosis and staging has been confirmed.
Diagnosis and staging, will often involve tests such as x rays, scans and obtaining a sample of the cancer itself, a biopsy, which will then be analysed in the laboratory. The Cancer Research UK website provides comprehensive information about cancer tests and also explains what it is like to have a particular test and how you can prepare for it.
For people living in North Wales most diagnostic tests will be done at your local hospital. Some tests may involve attending one of the three District General Hospitals in North Wales or a specialist hospital in North West England. Details of the main test and treatment centres are provided in our section on Treatments.
In North Wales there is an expectation that all new patients will be discussed by a multidisciplinary team (MDT) – a team of healthcare professionals working together to make sure treatment and care is the best it can be. The MDT will include staff trained to diagnose and stage cancer as well as those trained to treat cancer. The team will meet regularly, usually weekly, to discuss new patients. Together they will confirm the diagnosis and staging before agreeing a treatment plan.
Sources of Support
Waiting for the results of tests and receiving a diagnosis can be a very anxious time. It can be difficult to know where to go for advice and support or simply to find someone to talk to. If you have questions or concerns, your GP or hospital based healthcare team might be your first contact. You may wish to follow the links below to explore some additional sources of information and support: