Finding out you have cancer - The Roy Castle Lu...

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

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Finding out you have cancer

Chris333 profile image

I just have been told that I have Lung Cancer and am very unhappy how I was told.

I was wondering when you were diagnosed who told you, how were you told and is there a better way to have been told?

10 Replies

It was quite weird for me because I went to a&e because I had vision loss. I worked as a nurse in this a&e department and was seen by one of the registrars who I worked with. He had to tell me the results of my head ct which showed a brain tumour and chest xray which showed a lung tumour. He was crying, I was very matter of fact about it. But he was amazing. I don't think there is any easy way of telling people, and I am sorry you had a bad experience. The department at the time was very busy and I was told about my results in the consultants office, I don't think the place really mattered because I was so shell shocked I did not notice my surroundings. I am eteranally grateful to everyone who has cared for me. xxx

Hi Chris

I had been visiting my GP for a few months with not feeling well and I had various tests done which included a chest x ray

10 days later I went back for some blood test results and asked if results of x ray were back, I was told no but he said that's probably good news as if anything was wrong they would have let us know within a few days

Two days later GP phoned to say x ray results had shown abnormalities in my lung and was told a CT scan had been arranged so my first suspicion of having lung cancer I heard via a telephone conversation

2 weeks later after scan it was confirmed I had lung cancer, that was last September

I found my GP very cold and uncaring yet when I was referred on to my oncologist he was very supportive and though I am stage 4 gave me hope where before I had none

Sadly there are Doctors still what need more training and a better understanding of how to deal with difficult conversations like this

If you feel unhappy with your GP / consultant you can always ask to see a different one

At this difficult time you do need to have trust in the team what are treating you


I was fairly happy in the way I was told , I suppose happy isnt the word. I had an xray which my G.P. had arranged , I then received a letter to go to the hospital as there was an abnormality on my lung. The doctor there then showed me the x ray and he explained it was probably 99% certain it was a cancer . I then saw the Lung cancer nurse specialist who explained everything to me.

For me, the thought was there from the outset. My GP told me there was something on the x-ray but they weren't sure what it was. Let's just say that woman should never play poker, it was written all over her face that the news wasn't good. I was told it was cancer by the chest physician after I'd had a CT scan. He was quite gentle about it but matter of fact, which suited me fine.

I agree with Sarah-Helen that there's not an easy way to tell people and I'm sorry you had an upsetting experience.

Hi Chris 333,

I had no idea I had lung cancer. I went for a chest X-ray for something different. I had a phone call a few days later asking me to go to the respiratory clinic. I walked into the Consultant's office, he looked up and said 'oh hello Mrs ...... you've got lung cancer'. I was so shocked I couldn't speak for the whole time I was in there. I was fit, no symptoms, no suspicions. My Doctor was as shocked as me. The whole thing was a nightmare - well it still is. I complained about the Consultant who told me. He had no idea of my circumstances, whether I had support at home - even if I had a home!

It is a terrible journey for all, but to be told in such a way was just brutal, and it has taken me a long time to come to terms with it.


Like Sarah my wife and i were told off the record around the bed within hrs of being admited to a and e.....when my wife lost her speech that there was a shadow on the lung and mets to the brain and then a few days later officially in the consultants people say theres no easy way and on the whole the drs and nurses were great....though a couple left a lot to be desired when your trying to deal with the trauma unfolding in front of you. John

LorraineD profile image

Hello Chris

I am sorry to hear you have been diagnosed, and equally sorry this difficult news was not delivered to you well. As people have said above it can be a hard situation to communicate well, but we all need compassion and support when in that position. I hope you have been put in touch with a Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist, who should be able to support you through your treatment choices and understanding what your diagnosis might mean.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact our nurse led helpline on 0800 358 7200 or send an email to

If you want to share more of your experience here, please do so, I know you will have a supportive audience.


Lorraine @Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

So sorry that you've had an awful experience Chris when being told of your diagnosis - it's hard enough being told so I think it's not too much to expect a bit of empathy and support.

I was fortunate enough to have a supportive GP who informed me very gently that an xray had showed up a shadow that needed further investigation and told me that a scan had been organised. The respiratory consultant at the hospital who organised scans and did the bronchoscopy kind of prepared me at each appt with warnings that it was very likely lung cancer. It was still a bombshell when it came but he told us immediately that there was a good chance that surgery could be done to remove it so he gave us hope. Hubby and me were then taken to a 'quiet room' by the specialist lung nurse who gave us time to get to grips with it and answered any questions we had there and then. All in all, handled as well as it could have been I think - such a shame that not everyone gets the same kind of treatment.

Wishing you all the best Chris x

Hi Chris,

Sorry to hear about the manner in which you were told. Unfortunately, there never is an easy option to pass on bad news to people. In my own case, I attended my local hospital for a CT scan to ascertain how my bowel was standing up to diverticultis. The CT scan was performed and I came home, only to receive a phone call later that day, asking me to return to the hospital the day after for another scan. I had the second scan and within a few days was summoned back to the Respiratory Dept. On entering the Doctor's surgery, his computer was switched on behind him when he asked my wife and I to sit down. He partly turned to the screen and said, 'There's your problem. The bad news is, "You've got two cancers, bowel and lung" However, the good news is that they both appear operable"

Since then I've had my left lung completely removed and over 50% of my bowel, over 5 years ago, which appeared to clear the cancers. I was advised to have adjuvant chemotherapy to ensure that it had all been removed and due to the ferocity of the chemo, (cisplatin and vinorolbin) I am now left with damage to the nerves and muscles in my legs which make walking and balance very difficult.

However, back to the case in point. I myself don't think there is an easy way to tell people such bad news. As a retired police officer I had many occasions of telling members of the public they had just lost loved ones in road accidents etc. (6 on one occasion) and it is a difficult task.

What I would try and do now, is put this behind you and try to fight the cancer with all your might.

We all need the goodwill of our loved ones to and friends to help us continue the fight!

Wishing you all the very best.

I also had a poor experience of being told when seeing a registrar for the results of a CT following an A&E admission that had been misdiagnosed as 'asthma' and everyone had been at pain to point out the 'lesion' wasn't sinister and more likely uncontrolled asthma so like others it came as a bolt out of the blue as I was fit at the time. As others have said, better to try and put it behind you but you could always have a word with the Commissioners for Primary Care (if you are in England) Clinical Commissioning Groups who could suggest training and support for the GPs. I guess what's important is what would you have liked to have happened? How could the news have been broken differently? In my case, despite having worked in the NHS at time of diagnosis for some years, the terminology and phrases they used meant nothing to me. One of the medics had said to me 'that if they're using the term 'lesion' that's not as bad as 'shadow' so when the registrar said 'the mass on the screen shouldn't be there' and when I asked what it was ' she said 'cancer', I didn't have a clue what I was looking at. The very idea that patients would be familiar with the orientation/content of a CT screen needs some explanation, and terms like 'your case will be discussed by the MDT' was completely meaningless. Only by explaining this to my respiratory consultant at the hospital were they able to look at how they break bad news and try to improve learning. Many GPs are unfamiliar with both LC symptoms and not necessarily up to date with developments in treatments and outcomes for LC so this is an area that urgently needs improving. good luck.

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