Before anyone can see a specialist, a referral is required from a GP to that specialist. Referrals only last 1 year and then another appointment with the GP is needed to for a new referral.
For most patients the first sign that something is wrong is that they feel unwell and visit their General Practitioner (GP) for a check-up. From here the GP may send or refer you for further tests and a referral is simply a request for additional tests or a request for you to see a specialist doctor for an opinion.
The GP can generally not diagnose lymphoma but they may or may not suspect it but the tests that they order will help with the diagnosis. The GP may refer a patient to a haematologist for further investigation. The GP can recommend a haematologist, or patients can also request to see a haematologist of their choice.
How long is the wait to see a haematologist?
Waiting time depends on how urgent the need is. In some cases, the GP will have ordered blood tests and possibly CT scans and a biopsy. They will write a letter of referral to a haematologist and this may be a haematologist at the nearest hospital. However, not all hospitals have haematologists or the access to the scans that are needed and some patients may need to travel to a different area.
Some patients may be quite unwell and need to be admitted to hospital. In these cases, they may be taken to the emergency department and a haematologist will be assigned to care for them.
Seeking a second opinion
Any patient can ask for a second opinion from another specialist and this may be a valuable part of your decision-making process. Your haematologist or your GP can refer you to another specialist. Some patients may feel uncomfortable asking for a second opinion, but haematologists are used to this request. Make sure any scans, biopsies, or blood test results are sent to the doctor providing the second opinion.
At the appointment
A diagnosis of lymphoma can be a very stressful and upsetting time. It may be difficult to remember all the details and some questions are overlooked so it may be helpful to write them down for the next visit
It may also be helpful to take notes at the appointment and taking a family member or a friend to the appointment can be extremely helpful. They can provide emotional support and take in information that you may miss. If there is something you do not understand you can ask the doctor to explain it again. They will not be offended, it is important to them that you understand what they have told you.