I have been diagnosed with cancer - How long can I wait for my cancer treatment to start before my treatment outcomes could be impacted?

The timing of your gynaecological cancer treatment is important as delays can impact treatment outcomes. However, the specific timeframe within which treatment should begin varies depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as individual factors.

Cancer treatment is typically initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis. The aggressiveness of the cancer and its stage influence how quickly treatment should begin. Cancers that are on the cusp to progress to a higher stage should be treated urgently. Precancers require less urgent treatment. Delays in treatment can allow the cancer to progress, potentially making it more difficult to treat. However, sometimes a delay of treatment may be in the interest of patients to achieve specific goals, such as below:

  • Diagnostic workups: Additional tests and diagnostic procedures may be needed before treatment starts to gather more information about your specific cancer and inform the treatment plan. Having time for a good quality diagnostic workup and a well-informed treatment plan needs to be weighed against urgency of treatment.cartoon illustration of surgeons operating on patient
  • Treatment modality: Different treatments for gynaecological cancers (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation) may have different timelines and sequences for initiation and optimising outcomes.
  • Fertility preservation: For women of reproductive age, considerations about fertility preservation may influence the timing of treatment decisions. Fertility-sparing options may be explored before initiating aggressive treatments. Read more in my previous blog on fertility preservation here.
  • Overall health: The patient's general health and ability to tolerate treatment need to be considered. Improving pre-existing health conditions may be beneficial or even necessary before initiating certain treatments. For example, one of my patients needed adjustment of medications for her heart health before we could operate.
  • Complex treatment requirements: Some cancers require a multidisciplinary approach, and coordination among different specialists may affect timing of treatment.
  • Patient preferences: Open communication between the patient and her healthcare team is essential. Understanding the patient's values, preferences, and priorities helps in tailoring the treatment plan and timing. For example, one of my recent patients needed to attend her daughter’s wedding before she could focus on her upcoming surgery. That is perfectly fine, too.

While prompt treatment of cancer is generally recommended, individual circumstances can influence its timing. It's crucial for individuals diagnosed with gynaecological cancers to communicate openly with healthcare providers, discuss any concerns or constraints, and make informed decisions based on the specific characteristics of the cancer and the patient's overall health. If facing a cancer diagnosis or treatment decision, consult with a gynaecological oncologist to determine the most appropriate and timely course of action for your situation.

If you wish to receive regular information, resources, reassurance and inspiration for up-to-date care that is safe and sound and in line with the latest research, please subscribe to my blog via the form above, or like Dr Andreas Obermair on Facebook.

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