Test Results

June 1, 2023

We all want to know as soon as possible what our test results are.  It is human nature that we worry about these things and want to get the answers as soon as possible.  It can be tempting to ask for those results from the wrong person.  Sometimes the wrong person can seem like the right person at the time.  As a primary care office, it is our job to help you sort out these things.

Jenny is a 59-year-old woman who had a mammogram done a few weeks ago.  She has been relatively busy in her life lately, so she didn’t give it much thought.  Her husband was ill, and she was spending a lot of time taking care of him.  It took a couple weeks to get her to return our call that she needs ultrasounds done on both breasts.  She scheduled that and got it done promptly.  That is where the worry set in.  Now, for most of us women, we don’t think too hard about a mammogram.  It is routine, we are feeling fine.  It is the rare woman who calls us up frantic the next day asking for their results.  But once we have something abnormal, we start to get worried, so I am not surprised that this woman’s initial response was to ask the ultrasound technician what it showed.

It showed that she needed a biopsy.  When we called her with this result, she was incredulous.  “I’m not going to do that”, was what she told my nurse.  This woman has been a patient of mine for a long time.  We have what I would consider a great doctor-patient relationship.  She is anxious and worried.  I looked at her chart and saw that she had an appointment with me a few weeks away.  I decided to talk to her about it in person during that visit.

She came in for that visit to talk about it.  She said: “when I was there for the ultrasound, I asked the technician how it looked, and she said: While I can’t tell you the results…. I don’t see anything on here that would make you have to come back.”

At that moment I realized what had happened.  She got her “results” from the technician.  By the time my staff had called to tell her the news, she had already gotten an answer she wanted to hear, and her nerves and worry were (incorrectly) soothed.  While the technician was surely trying to be kind, she did a huge, if not cataclysmic disservice to this patient.  By trying to ease her mind, she inadvertently convinced her she had nothing to worry about and made her much more resistant to believing what the radiologist actually saw.  I truly believe that if it weren’t for the close relationship we had over the years, she wouldn’t have eventually gone to get the biopsy done.

As a primary care doctor, these are the sorts of conversations I have every day.  It is my job to guide you and advocate for you, and yes, I sometimes worry along with you.  Please consider your source when you ask for advice, or test results, or look online.  And if you don’t understand your results, please call for an appointment.  We are always happy to explain things to you in person.




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