A number of tests can suggest that you have cancer. But to find out for sure, your doctor will take a tissue sample (biopsy) and send it to a pathologist. The pathologist will study the sample, make a diagnosis and write a report of the results. This report will help your doctor understand the cancer and suggest the best treatments.
If you have cancer, ask your doctor for a copy of your pathology report. The report was written by one doctor for another doctor, so it may contain words that you don't know. The information below can help you understand some of the terms.
What's in a pathology report?
Different labs may use different types of reports, so the one you get may not use exactly these terms or sections. But this will give you an idea what to look for on your report and what it means.
Your personal information. At the top, the report will list your name, date of birth, sex and other information, such as your doctor's name and the date of your biopsy. Check these facts to make sure they are correct.
Clinical history. This may include information such as the symptoms that led to the biopsy, the type of procedure that was done and the diagnosis your doctor made before the biopsy.
Clinical (or pre-operative) diagnosis.This is the diagnosis your doctor made before the biopsy was done. It may not be the same as the final diagnosis.
Gross description.This is what the tissue sample looked like to the naked eye. It may include the size, weight, color and anything else the pathologist noticed. It may also talk about how the sample was prepared to be viewed under the microscope.
Microscopic description.This describes how the cancer cells looked under a microscope.This section is often long and technical. Important details about the tumor in this section may include:
Special tests or markers.This will give the results of any special tests that were done to learn more about the cancer. This information can help guide treatment.
Diagnosis (summary).This is the most important part of the report. It sums up the findings from the other sections and says what type of cancer was found.
Pathologist's signature. This is the name of the doctor who was responsible for your biopsy.
What should I do with my pathology report?
Discuss the findings in your report with your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor can help you understand what you need to know about your cancer. Learning more can help you make good treatment decisions.
The pathology report is an important part of your medical record, so it's a good idea to keep it in your files. It may also be useful if you decide to seek a second opinion before treatment.
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