College of American Pathologists

  About Pathologists and Pathology


Updated November 7, 2005

Pathologists help care for patients every day by providing your doctor the information needed to ensure appropriate patient care. They are valuable resources for other physicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A pathologist is a physician who studies body fluids and tissues, helps your primary care doctor make a diagnosis about your health or any medical problems you have, and uses laboratory tests to monitor the health of patients with chronic conditions.

A pathologist may also recommend what you can do to prevent illness and maintain good health. For example, when your blood is drawn as part of your annual physical, the pathologist supervises testing and performs tests to help assess your health.

A pathologist will also examine a tissue biopsy to determine if it is benign or if you have cancer, and shares that information with your primary care doctor. Some pathologists specialize in genetic testing, which can for example, determine the most appropriate treatment for particular types of cancer.

Pathologists also perform autopsies, which not only determine the person’s cause of death, but may also discover more information about the genetic progression of a disease. This discovery can help family members take preventive action for their own health and can aid researchers in developing future treatments.


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