Cancer is a devastating disease that is causing havoc in our society. Once you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is natural to have questions. One of the most common queries is how long it takes to be diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer is a complex disease to diagnose because doctors can only confirm some diagnoses after the appearance of symptoms. Another issue that makes cancer hard to diagnose is that there isn’t a single test to diagnose cancer.

A cancer diagnosis will largely depend on the patient. The following is what you need to know about diagnosing cancer: 

Cancer Screening

The first stage of cancer diagnosis is typically going for a cancer screening. Diagnosing cancer in its earlier stages offers the best chance for an accurate diagnosis. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of curing cancer.

Cancer screenings are often recommended for high-risk individuals, but you should talk to your doctor to determine which cancer screenings suit you and when you should have them.

Various medical organizations and patient-advocacy groups also have recommendations and guidelines for cancer screening. Therefore, cancer screenings will help determine how long it takes to diagnose cancer.

Tests For Cancer

Doctors and medical institutions will perform various tests when diagnosing cancer, including: 

Physical Exams

A doctor will perform a physical exam to look for abnormalities that may signify cancer, such as skin color change, body lumps, or enlarged organs. Physical exams may miss cancer in its earlier stages. 

Lab Tests

Laboratory tests like urine and blood tests will help your doctor determine if you have cancer symptoms. For example, your blood test will reveal that you have too many white blood cells if you have leukemia. 

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests allow your doctor to examine the internal components of your body in a non-invasive manner

 Imaging tests for diagnosing cancer may include 

computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and X-ray scans.


A doctor is a test that involves collecting a sample of cells for lab testing. The biopsy will depend on the type of cancer and its location. Biopsies have more accurate results when testing cancer. 

Therefore, the diagnosis process will depend on the tests the doctor uses. The above tests will take varying amounts of time, and only when they are complete will the truth be known. Some tests can take weeks before obtaining results. 

Stages Of Cancer

The stage of cancer will largely determine its diagnosis. It is easier to diagnose cancer in its later stages than in earlier ones, which is why cancer screenings are so important. Cancer stages have a ranking system of 0 to 4, with 4 being the most advanced stage.

The cancer stage will also determine the treatment options and probability of a cure. Go to to know if you had a misdiagnosis. If you did, you might have a legal case against the doctor or hospital. 

Type Of Cancer

Some cancers are more challenging to diagnose than others and will affect how long it will take to diagnose them. For example, various types of skin cancer are easy to diagnose as you can see them, but only a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis.

If you go for cancer screenings and regularly check for lumps, you can find symptoms of breast cancer leading to an early diagnosis. Contrarily, some cancers may take up to 10 years to diagnose.

Pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer are forms of cancer that are harder to diagnose. 

There is no concrete answer to how long it takes to diagnose cancer. It will depend on the type, stage, diagnosis method, and how often one goes for cancer screening. It is always a good idea to go for regular checks as it gives you a better chance for an early diagnosis.