Recently, a group of patients found out that the laboratory is nothing to be afraid of.
These patients, members of the Carcinoid-Neuroendocrine Tumour Society of Canada (CNETS), are the inquisitive types and always come prepared to their appointments and meetings with questions and ideas, seeing themselves as active participants in their own care.
When Dr. Sylvia Asa, Medical Director of the Laboratory Medicine Program, invited them to take a tour of the laboratory and meet their pathology team, they all jumped at the opportunity.
“I believe that I am a true partner in my treatment plan,” explained Louise Binder, a member of the society. “As I partner, I want to be as knowledgeable as possible about my condition, and for me that meant meeting everyone involved in my care team – including my pathologist. I have so many questions about my disease and was eager to talk to the people in the laboratory and excited to see what happens inside.”
The group from the CNETS all met with Dr. Asa outside of her office on the 11th floor, TGH, Eaton building, right outside the pathology laboratory and all came prepared with questions that Dr. Asa was happy to answer.
“Our type of cancer, carcinoid tumours, aren’t as well-known as other types of cancer – but it doesn’t mean we are still not looking for support and answers,” said Peter Glynn, member of CNETS
“I like being available for our patients,” said Dr. Asa. “Pathologists don’t always get to meet our patients. But, I believe it is absolutely worth it so our patients have a deeper understanding of their diagnoses.”
The team toured the laboratory in the same way that a biopsy or tissue travels through the lab, starting in surgical pathology, right outside the OR in Toronto General. Surgical pathology is the area of the laboratory where the tissue is first examined, recorded and analyzed before being processed and prepared for detailed microscopic examination.
“I had seen laboratories on TV, but it is something else entirely to see and tour one in person,” exclaimed Debbie Brown, a member of CNETS. “I knew that medicine was complex, but seeing it in person allowed me to understand what happens to my sample once it disappears into the lab. Now I can appreciate who is looking after it and what they are doing to it.”
After surgical pathology, the group moved through other areas of LMP’s anatomic pathology area, watching as the tissues samples were cut, stained and prepared to be viewed and diagnosed by a pathologist.
The group toured through the entire pathology and molecular diagnostic area of the lab, and the 3rd floor of Toronto General, location of the Core Lab, with Dr. Paul Yip, one of the biochemists in LMP.
“Biochemists, like pathologists, don’t always get to meet our patients. But, I believe it’s important to be available whenever a patient wants to learn more about their diagnosis, or if they have questions about a test certain result,” said Dr. Yip.
As the group toured the Core Lab, the group commented on the number and variety of different laboratory professionals who were working in the lab.
“Touring the lab and speaking with the lab team is real patient education,” said Debbie. “I found it comforting to see everyone and I appreciate that we’re being looked after by real professionals who are dedicated to their role in our care and working for us, the patient. It really allows for a lot more trust in the process.”
“Meeting and talking with Dr. Asa, Dr. Yip and seeing the lab really increased my understanding of how I am being looked after at UHN,” said Debbie. “For me, increased knowledge means decreased stress.”
“Answering questions and being there for the patient is absolutely part of the recovery and treatment plan for our patients,” said Dr. Asa. “I want the phone in every pathologist’s office to start ringing with a patient wanting to learn more about their diagnosis.”
“I didn’t know where to go to find answers about my cancer diagnosis and I didn’t know what to expect when I was first invited on the tour,” said Holly Neil, member of CNETS. “But, now I feel more in control of my diagnosis and treatment plan. I encourage every patient to ask for a copy of their pathology report and ask to talk with the expert who made their diagnosis.”
“Your pathology report is worth reading and understanding to help understand your disease and your treatment, added Holly. “It’s a culture change, we don’t know to ask for the report, we don’t know to ask to meet with our pathologist, but I hope that changes. I hope more patients get talk with their pathologist.”