The tests used to check for an advanced breast cancer diagnosis

Breast cancer

Tests and diagnosis for advanced breast cancer

Understanding my test results

How is ABC diagnosed?

Diagnosis of ABC can be complex, requiring tests and investigations that will take time. If you have any new symptoms, or you or your doctor have concerns about ABC, your doctor will recommend an individualised approach, depending on what these new signs are.

Tests could include

Blood tests
Bone scans and/or x-rays of specific bones
MRI, CT and PET scans
An ultrasound scan

Understanding my test results

It is always a good idea to take a support person to your appointments, who can be an extra set of ears, ask questions on your behalf and take notes while you listen. If you cannot have someone present with you on the day, or your whānau live far away, you could always ask them to join the consultation virtually (by phone or FaceTime).

Ask your doctor how you will receive your test results. Sometimes they will be posted by your GP on your online health portal, such as Manage My Health, or sent directly to you. 

It is a good idea to make an appointment with your GP so they can explain the results and answer your questions, as it can be difficult to look through medical terms and jargon by yourself. 

Searching what test results mean on the internet can be useful but may reveal information that is not relevant to you, causing unnecessary distress. Always be mindful of the source of information and check whether it is reliable. 

Waiting for test results and specialist appointments can also be very difficult for you and your whānau. It is important to seek support from family or friends at this time. Contact our team of nurses for free support and advice.

Even if it may seem difficult, try to take some time out of each day to care for yourself. This can be in the form of gentle exercise, relaxation techniques or even keeping a diary. Some people use this time to write down questions to ask their medical team. Keep a notebook handy or jot the questions down on your phone as they pop into your head.

Suggested questions to ask following diagnosis

  • Can you please explain my diagnosis to me?
  • Is it related to my original diagnosis or is this new?
  • Do I need any other tests or investigations?
  • Explain to me what these other tests and investigations are?
  • How do I prepare for these and how long do I need to wait for them?
  • Do you think I should have another biopsy and why?
  • What treatment options are available?
  • What is the aim of these treatments?
  • How would this treatment affect my quality of life?
  • Are there any clinical trials available to me and how do I access them?
  • What support groups are available to me?
  • What are my next steps?
  • What would happen if I decided not to rush into a decision about treatment just now? How may this affect the course of my disease?