Not many people know about the Pathology lab. It is a medical specialty that operates behind the scenes. As a patient, you have no direct contact with this department.
The pathology lab examines tissue samples or fluids (not blood) removed by the GP or specialist. Examples of tissue samples include a skin patch, a stomach biopsy, appendix, tonsils, gallbladder, an organ or part of an organ, such as a breast, kidney, prostate, uterus, or a piece of the small or large intestine.
Also loose cells in suspended in a liquid can be examined e.g. cervical smear, urine, fluid from the chest cavity or abdomen.
The samples are examined and processed macroscopically and microscopically. The pathologist assesses whether the tissues and cells are normal or related to a disease e.g. inflammation or tumour. If it is a tumour, the type of tumour (benign or malignant), the tumour size, and whether the tumour has been completely removed will be determined. For tumours, the pathologist also evaluates any metastases of the tumour in lymph nodes, blood and lymph vessels to determine the outlook and follow-up treatment.
Microscopic analysis is still the cornerstone of any diagnosis but is often supplemented by additional analyses (immunohistochemical staining, molecular testing and genetic testing). These methods allow for better identification of the tumour and determine which patients may benefit from certain types of treatment.
Every week, these results are discussed in a multidisciplinary team (Multidisciplinary Oncology Consultation) so that, based on all the data and results, the optimal therapeutic approach for each patient can be determined.
Patients get the result of pathological tests from the physician who collected the tissue or fluid.