What Else Do Pathologists Do?

Author:  Dr. O. Adeyi

In a previous post, we talked about how pathologists work with other health care professionals to examine tissue, blood, etc, and make a diagnosis on your behalf.

Well, we will admit that it is an awfully simplistic way of looking at things. But, if you’ve ever been inside a hospital, you’ll know that things are never that simple.

So, what else do pathologists do?

Pathologists are specialist doctors uniquely trained to guide medical treatment by:

  • Making critical diagnosis that could never be made any other way
  • Classifying ailments after applying appropriate tests to tissue and/or fluid samples in a way no other physician does
  • Determining the completeness of a tumor resection
  • Defining where applicable, the specific treatment a particular cancer (for example) is likely to respond or not respond to
  • Screening for pre-malignant states, for example in the female genital system, thereby preventing cancer years before it occurs
  • Predicting cancer risk via genetic testing before cancer develops
  • Involvement in many other day-to-day activities that keep the outpatient and inpatient departments of the hospital running effectively and efficiently

What about autopsy?

Yes, pathologists do that too, and our understanding of many diseases today would not have been possible without the knowledge generated by pathologists from autopsy. Pathologists for example, were integral to the identification of the nature of, and the risk posed by, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in late 2002, with important information emerging from autopsy examinations of the early victims.

Research?

That happens here too…big time! Most of the recent ground-breaking knowledge could not have been possible without pathologists. Today we understand more cancers than we did in the past, and are able to test (by pathologists) specific fingerprints of several tumors resulting in the oncologist’s ability to select targeted drugs on a case-by-case basis…talk about customized care!

Pathologists continue to play active roles in many types of research studies that range from basic science to clinical trials and thanks to them, (of course in collaboration with other specialists), new therapies for cancers, metabolic diseases, viral infections, among others are on the horizon, such that the future of medicine is very promising.

So what impact do pathologists have on healthcare? Maybe we’ll save that for our next post.

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