This paper presents the results of a multi-method research project investigating the psychological distress associated with waiting for results of diagnostic investigations in a delayed-results breast clinic. A cohort of 126 women completed standardized psychometric instruments to assess anxiety, mood and coping over 3 days. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 respondents. The findings indicate that waiting sustained but did not exacerbate psychological distress. Peri-diagnostic anxiety, depression, uncertainty and confusion were associated with anxiety levels immediately following triple assessment. Women leaving the clinic with low anxiety retained this composure throughout the peri-diagnostic period. Those in the moderate and high anxiety groups recorded sustained anxiety, depression, uncertainty and confusion, with mean scores comparable to and exceeding those reported by psychiatric out-patients. Coping during the waiting period was typically accomplished by emotion-focused strategies. Qualitative data suggested the delayed-results clinic structure may facilitate psychological preparation for test results. (C) 1999 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.