How Long From The Diagnosis to Treatment of Cancer

Once your general practitioner (GP) suspects that you may have cancer, make sure to see a specialist for proper diagnosis and to plan a treatment method.

As a general rule of thumb, you should not have to wait more than two weeks to see a specialist, and subsequently, more than 30 days to start the treatment. Delayed treatment will result in severe consequences, and is usually fatal in the case of cancer.

Some types of cancer, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and other fast-growing cancers, require immediate treatment. If a tumour is pressing on a vital organ, the initiation of treatment should be immediate. 

Three important points:

  • Cancer is a condition that involves uncontrolled cell division and growth.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about any symptoms you notice that do not go away quickly.
  • Early detection of cancer is paramount to a higher rate of survival, higher cure rate, and better treatment outcomes.

About Cancer

Cancer is a disease state that is associated with an uncontrolled cell division and growth in the human body.

Usually, the cells of the body receive signals to divide (mitosis) and die (apoptosis) as they become ‘old’ and damaged, so that new cells can take their place. 

Cancerous cells can grow and divide uncontrollably by increased growth signals and loss of cell-death signals. These cells may exhibit physical changes, such as forming lumps called tumours, but some do not (e.g. in the case of leukaemia).   

The tumour may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cancer cells may travel to other parts of the body by a process called metastasis.

It is worthy to note that cancer can affect any part of the human body.1,2

When to Contact Your GP if You Notice Symptoms

You should contact your GP when you experience any of the below mentioned symptoms, and you might further be referred to a specialist for proper diagnosis and tests.

General Cancer Symptoms

Cancer symptoms vary depending on the body part affected and the symptoms are usually nonspecific.

Here are some of the general symptoms of cancer: 3,4,5

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Lump(s) being felt under the skin.
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss
  • Yellowing, darkening or even reddening of the skin
  • Changes in bowel or bladder movements
  • Persistent cough
  • Abdominal discomfort or indigestion
  • Hoarseness
  • Unexplained joint pain 

Referral to a Specialist or Screening

According to a 2018 report from the American Society of Cancer, since 2016 about 15.5 million people are living with cancer in the United States.

You should be aware of the above mentioned symptoms, especially if it is persistent. 

You should visit your GP, who may possibly refer you to a specialist for proper screening and tests if they suspect you have cancer.  A specialist will discuss the possible commencement of treatment and the best treatment options for you.


If you have some nonspecific symptoms associated with cancer, your healthcare provider may start by asking you questions, such as family history, before moving on to a physical examination. Specific tests may be carried out to be certain that the symptoms are due to cancer and to eliminate other health conditions.

How Long Will it Take to Receive a Diagnosis

Due to the numerous tests and screening, final diagnosis of cancer may take a while. NHS England is targeting a new method of diagnosis called Faster Diagnosis Standard in which patients do not spend more than 28 days from referral to receiving a diagnosis. This is to make sure that there is no treatment delay and no extended waiting time for cancer patients.

It may take adequate time to discuss a suitable treatment plan with your healthcare provider.

Common Diagnostic Tools

Most diagnostic tests are used to find out about the type, stage, and metastatic status of cancer. 

Some of the diagnostic tools used for cancer diagnosis includes: 5,6,7

  • Physical Examination: Checking and feeling lumps in some areas of the body may indicate a tumour. Additionally, checking for irregularities in some body parts, such as change in the skin colour or enlargement of some organ, can also be indicative of cancer.
  • Laboratory tests: Doing tests, such as urine and blood tests, aids in the identification of anomalies. For example, complete blood counts (CBC) are used to check for the number of white blood cells in leukemic patients.
  • Imaging tests: These tests aid the healthcare provider to check the bones and other body organs with instruments, such as Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) Scan, ultrasound, and X-ray.
  • Biopsy: To check for malignancy of cells, some samples of cells are taken for biopsy procedure.


The goal of cancer treatment is to eliminate cancerous cells and live a healthy, comfortable life. Treatment options include shrinking cancer cells, slowing down their growth, or to become symptom free for the remainder of life.  Some types of treatment options are explained below. 

  • Primary treatment: The goal of this type of treatment is to completely remove the or kill the cancer cells.

Any type of treatment can be used as primary treatment, it may be chemotherapy, radiation therapy etc.

  • Adjuvant treatment: The goal of adjuvant therapy is to remove cancer cells that may be left after the primary treatment.

Any treatment options may be used as adjuvant therapy e.g chemotherapy, radiation therapy etc.

  • Palliative Therapy: This type helps to relieve the symptoms associated with treatment options e.g., symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This can be given together with the main treatment 4,9.

Common Treatments

The treatment options are dependent on the type of cancer, stage of the cancer, and if the patient will adhere to the regimen or not.

Some of the most common treatment methods include:

  • Surgery: Removing a mass of cancer cells and some surrounding tissues so cancer cells are not left in the body.
  • Chemotherapy: This is the use of powerful drugs to kill cancerous cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: This treatment involves the use of high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant (i.e. stem cell transplant): This is the replacement of bone marrow that produces blood cells, to replace damaged bone marrow.
  • Immunotherapy: It is also known as biological therapy, in this situation, the body's immune system is manipulated and used to get rid of cancer cells. 
  • Hormone Therapy: Some of the cancer cells are caused by human hormones; for example, cancer cells that cause breast cancer and prostate cancer. The removal of these hormones or blocking its effects may disrupt the growth of the cancer cells.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

The length of cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer, and the kind of treatment option used.10 

How Long Does It Take Cancer To Develop In The Body?

Most cancer cells are slow-growing. It may take months or even years to develop. For example,  Breast and Bowel Cancers take around 10 years to develop.

Advice on Early Detection

Early detection and diagnosis of cancer allows you to get the best possible treatment option at the earliest stage of cancer.

When cancer care and treatment is delayed, there is likelihood of lower survival, increased cost of care, and poorer management of the disease state.


Cancer is a disease that requires attention as soon as you notice symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment is vital for recovery. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any abnormalities in your body, so you can receive treatment early if it is cancer.


  1. What Is Cancer? - National Cancer Institute. 17 Sept. 2007,
  2. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention
  3. “Cancer.” Nhs.Uk, 22 Nov. 2017,
  4. Cancer: Overview, Causes, Treatments, and Types. 6 Jan. 2020,
  5. “Cancer - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, . Accessed 13 Mar. 2022.
  6. Referral to a Specialist | Cancer Research UK. Accessed 13 Mar. 2022.
  7. How Cancer Is Diagnosed - National Cancer Institute. 9 Mar. 2015,
  8. Cancer Treatment - Mayo Clinic. Accessed 13 Mar. 2022.
  9. “How Long Is Chemotherapy? What to Expect.” Healthline, 13 Apr. 2021,
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Halimat Abdulrasheed

BPharm, Pharmaceutics and Drug, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
She is a content writer, copywriter, and pharmacist. She enjoys writing health contents for blogs etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818