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Pathologists can be involved in the diagnosis of almost any organic disease. Particularly commonly they examine tissue samples to determine whether they are cancerous.
There are numerous other subdivisions of pathology related to various areas of the body. This includes dermatopathology (pathology of the skin), gynaecological pathology, gastrointestinal pathology and so on.
It is unlikely that you will meet your pathologist. Generally a tissue sample will be taken by another doctor – your surgeon, general practitioner or physician and then sent to the pathologist for examination. A report is then sent back to your doctor who will relay the findings to you and proceed as necessary according to the results.
Tissue samples may be entire organs, parts of organs, small parts of an organ of interest (a biopsy) needle samples (FNA), scrapings (Pap smear), fluid (eg sputum or fluid drained from your chest or abdomen). They will be carefully preserved, prepared and stained so they can be examined under a microscope and the maximal amount of information gathered from the examination.
Specialist pathology training takes a minimum of five years. Training can be undertaken in General Pathology or in the areas of Anatomical Pathology, Chemical Pathology, Genetics, Haematology, Microbiology or Immunology.
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