Waiting on Medical Test Results

MANA clinics have the benefit of labs on site, including imaging, pulmonary function testing, and many more kinds of tests. Some tests provide results quickly. Others can take longer to provide results. In some cases, you will need to wait to discuss your results with your doctor. Waiting on medical test results may go on for a longer time or a shorter time, but it can be stressful either way. What can you do to make it easier?

Think twice about looking for answers

Research tells us that patients often go to Google to look up their diagnosis or tests before they even call a loved one. The internet offers lots of information and helps us to be better-informed health care consumers than earlier generations could. 

This can be a mixed blessing. There is plenty of inaccurate information online, for one thing. For another, things are rarely as simple as they look on the search results page at Google.com. Shared information at social media sites like Facebook is even less likely to be complete or accurate. Partial information can create unnecessary anxiety.

Waiting on medical test results is not easy, but needless worrying about things that may not apply to you is worse.

Gather your questions

If you decide to do a search online or to ask friends and family for their opinions, write down your questions so you can ask your doctor for more details. Asking Google, “Is COPD fatal?” while waiting for spirometry results will not provide you with useful information about your chances of enjoying many more years with proper treatment and lifestyle management. Yet you might feel hesitant to ask that question of your doctor. 

Don’t hesitate. Write down all your questions and concerns so you remember to ask them when you talk with your doctor. You can be sure that they have heard these questions before. 

Equally, if you see information that you don’t understand — on your chart in your patient portal or online — feel confident in asking about that information. Your doctor will be happy to explain these things to you. 

Don’t jump to conclusions

Sometimes patients feel that they will get results faster if something serious is wrong or that they won’t hear about bad results as quickly. Neither of these conclusions is true. Sometimes it can take what seems like a long time to get results just because there are a lot of people being served or because a test requires a longer time to produce results. 

Sometimes it seems like a long time because you are worried or anxious about the results. Nobody ever said that time flies when you’re waiting on medical test results.

The length of time or the form in which you receive your results is not an indication of good news or bad news. 

Cope with the anxiety

It is normal to feel anxious while you wait for test results. Here are some steps that can help you cope with anxiety at this time:

  • Meditation, prayer, or relaxation exercises may help. Walking, running, swimming, or practicing yoga can calm you.
  • Write, draw, play music, dance — expressing your feelings can make you feel better and more in control.
  • Talk with a supportive family member or friend.
  • Maintain your routine. Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep will help you manage stress and feel well. 
  • Avoid risky behaviors. Turning to drugs or alcohol, getting into conflicts with loved ones, or making other bad decisions will not make you feel less anxious in the long run, even if it seems to help in the moment. 

Your health care team will be supportive as you learn and respond to the results of the test.