Archive for April, 2010
A pathologist is a physician (MD or DO) who examines tissues and is responsible for the accuracy of laboratory tests. Pathologists interpret the results of these examinations and tests—information that is important for the patient’s diagnosis and recovery. The pathologist and the patient’s other doctors consult on which tests to order, interpretation of test results, and appropriate treatments. Pathologists play a vital role on the patient’s primary health care team. Pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries, like AIDS and diabetes, using the tools of laboratory science and its sophisticated instruments and methods. Today, with advances in biomedical science, more than 2,000 laboratory tests on blood and body fluids are available. Many require specialized professional interpretation by an expert, usually a pathologist. Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory, and a pathologist usually serves as Director of the Laboratory. In the blood bank, pathologists and medical technologists ensure that the blood or blood products you receive are safe. In microbiology, microorganisms that can cause infections – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – are identified so the most effective drugs to treat an infection can be selected. Autopsy, while an important tool in medicine, represents only a small part of the typical pathologist’s practice.
A clinical pathologist oversees laboratory tests conducted on body fluids such as blood and urine.
An anatomic pathologist assists surgeons during operations by providing immediate diagnoses on biopsies—specially treated tissues removed in surgery and rushed to the lab. A forensic pathologist uses the science of the laboratory to answer questions about evidence collected for criminal and civil cases. Other pathologists conduct research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases.
The above statement was copied directly from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, http://www.ascp.org/pdf/ThePathologist.aspx
Blog Note: The above description pretty much covers the specialty of pathology. It is a very broad based medical practice and you can see from the above details, pathologists can busy themselves in many practice areas, in academia, in private practice, in the military, in legal matters and finally in many aspects of research.
What we discuss in future blogs are the breast pathologists and how their practice affects your diagnosis and treatment.
The answer to this question relates to who is looking at your mammograms. In the best places, the radiologist specializes in breast imaging, and that is all that he or she looks at day after day. As you can imagine, these specialists develop a keen, eagle like ability to see small abnormalities that others might not recognize. This ability to see subtleties in breast imaging takes years to acquire. Such specialization allows these physicians to practice in breast centers, and offer early detection services to the women in the community.
The National Consortium of Breast Centers recognizes these breast centers as the optimal way to screen for breast disease. If you visit the website www.breastcare.org you can read about the activities of such breast centers across the United States. You will learn there are different levels of breast center services available to you.
The word dedicated means that these specially trained physicians are only performing studies on women’s breasts. They are not examining bones, kidneys or lungs like other radiologists do in most places. These physicians also participate in weekly conferences where surgeons, pathologists and medical and radiation oncologists meet to discuss newly diagnosed women with breast disease problems. One woman at a time is discussed and her options for treatment reviewed. Such meetings improve communication amongst treating physicians and the direct beneficiary is you, the patient.
For more information on dedicated breast radiologists, please visit the guest article written by my colleague, Dr. Stephen Rose. It is located in the Guest Commentary section.
The purpose of this new blog is to discuss activities behind the scenes in an anatomic pathology laboratory in a community hospital setting. This laboratory has been involved in the evolution of changes that have occurred since our comprehensive breast center was established in 1996. Patients know that their biopsies and larger resections will be handled in an optimal manner when their specimens come to our lab. But few patients have ever met their pathologist or talked with them about their diagnosis and how it was made. So this website, www.breastpath.com, and this blog is for women who want to know more about their pathology report, and how the diagnosis was made. This blog also allows you to converse directly with a pathologist who has been deeply involved in a comprehensive breast center for 14 years and practicing for 37 years.