Understanding pathology reports

A pathology report contains information regarding diagnosis and characteristics of the tissue containing suspected cancer cells that was collected either from a biopsy or surgery:

  1. Clinical diagnosis from the physician before sending to the lab.
  2. Notes where tissue sample was removed from (breast, lymph node, etc)
  3. Info about the specimen itself such as color, weight and size.
  4. Tumor histology report confirming the presence of cancer cells, arrangement, degree of abnormality, and grade.
  5. Tumor size, invasiveness (invasive or in-situ), and spread.
  6. Tumor margins identifying whether are not cancer cells extend past the tumor, and how close to the edge of the tissue they are. If margins are close, more surgery may be needed.
  7. Hormone receptor status
  8. HER2/Neu status
  9. IHC staining to determine where cancer started, cancer type, and class
  10. Flow cytometry to identify cell property, % of live cells, size, and shape.
  11. Tumor markers produced by the tumor cells or normal cells as a response to the tumor.
  12. Rate of cell proliferation using gene and protein measurements
  13. Identify status of angiolymphatic (blood and/or lymph vessels)invasion
  14. Lymph node status expressed as "positive", "negative", or "cannot be assessed" (nodes not available)
  15. Genetic information, particularly genetic alterations.
  16. Comments and/or statements from the pathologist describing testing methods and guidelines used, and basis for which final determinations were made.

Summary or final diagnosis at the end of the report gives a final "synopsis" of the most important info such as: cancer, tumor grade, size, location, spread, margins, and markers.

Always verify that the name, address, birthdate, etc are in fact yours and not someone else's.

Learn pathology terms

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