Pathologist / Molecular Pathologist

Pathologists play a critical role in the diagnosis and management of cancer. Their work involves the examination of tissue samples and other specimens to determine the presence, type, and characteristics of cancer.

Specific roles of a Pathologist:

  • Analyze tissue samples obtained from biopsies, surgeries, or other procedures to identify the presence of cancer cells and determine the type of cancer.
  • Confirm or establish a definitive diagnosis of cancer by examining cellular and tissue morphology under a microscope.
  • Grade cancer cells to assess their degree of abnormality and aggressiveness. Contribute to the staging of cancer, which helps determine the extent of disease spread.
  • Investigate the molecular and genetic characteristics of cancer cells, including identifying specific markers that may influence treatment decisions.
  • Use immunohistochemistry and special staining techniques to identify specific proteins, antigens, or other cellular markers that aid in cancer diagnosis and classification.

Questions to ask a Pathologist:

  1. Can you explain the grade and stage of my cancer?
  2. What are the key characteristics of my tumor based on the pathology report?
  3. Are there specific molecular or genetic markers identified in my cancer cells?
  4. How does the pathology report impact my treatment plan?
  5. How often will my pathology be reviewed, and will it be re-evaluated over time?
  6. How can I obtain a copy of my pathology report, and who should I contact for questions in the future?
  7. What factors caused my cancer? Was it from environmental exposure, lifestyle or hereditary?

Areas of Specialty:

Pathologists may practice in all areas of pathology, however, you can encounter the following areas of specialty:

Anatomic Pathology

This type of pathology involves the examination of surgical specimens that have been removed from the body to investigate and diagnose disease.

  • Surgical pathology is the study of tissue removed from living patients during surgery.
  • Cytopathology is the study of cells obtained from body secretions and fluids by scraping, washing, or sponging the surface of a lesion or by the aspiration of a tumor mass or body organ with a fine needle.
  • Forensic pathology involves performing medicolegal autopsies and investigating and evaluating cases of sudden, unexpected, suspicious, and violent death.
  • Dermatopathology focuses on the diagnosis and monitoring of skin diseases by examining specially prepared tissue sections, cellular scrapings, and smears of skin lesions by means of microscopy.
  • Neuropathology is the study of diseases of the nervous system, as well as skeletal muscles and their functions; neuropathologists maintain an expertise in the infirmities of humans as they affect the nervous and neuromuscular systems, be they degenerative, infectious, metabolic, immunologic, neoplastic, vascular, or physical in nature.

Clinical Pathology

Clinical pathologists approach the diagnosis of disease through the laboratory analysis of body fluids and bodily tissue. Rather than examining surgically biopsied tissue, these physicians spend much of their time in labs testing blood and other fluids.

  • Chemical pathology entails the application of biochemical data to the detection, confirmation, or monitoring of disease.
  • Immunopathology focuses on the body’s immune response through analysis of blood samples to identify varying types of immune-related proteins that may indicate an autoimmune disease.
  • Hematopathology is the study of diseases that affect blood cells, blood clotting mechanisms, bone marrow, and lymph nodes; this involves laboratory diagnosis of anemias, leukemias, lymphomas, bleeding disorders, and blood clotting disorders.
  • Blood banking-transfusion medicine requires pathologists who are responsible for the maintenance of an adequate blood supply, blood donor and patient/recipient safety, and appropriate blood utilization; these specialists direct the preparation and safe use of specially prepared blood components.

Molecular Pathology

Molecular pathology focuses on disease at the submicroscopic, molecular level. These physicians utilize information and practices from both anatomic pathology and clinical pathology while also incorporating aspects of genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry.

Learn More:

What does a Molecular Pathologist do?

What is Molecular Pathology?