To diagnose diseases such as cancer, a sample of tissue called a biopsy is taken from a patient and examined by a pathologist to determine if cancer is present.
A pathologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and classification of diseases by looking at tissue or cells under a microscope and by interpreting medical laboratory tests.
The pathologist is also the doctor who examines specimens removed during surgery (resections) for conditions such as cancer, to determine whether a tumor is benign or cancerous, and if cancerous, the exact cell type, grade, and stage of the tumor.
In some cases, the pathologist also performs molecular biomarker analysis and reports genetic alterations that may guide targeted therapy for a specific cancer.
The College of American Pathologists has developed resources to help you understand your pathology report.
Understanding Your Pathology Report: A Patient's Story