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Pathology Specialist Doctor

A doctor has the ability to diagnose and treat a disease through his/her deep understanding and knowledge. However, not all diseases can be handled by one doctor. Some doctors opt to become specialists in order to master a specific medical specialty. Among many specialist doctors out there is the pathologist.

A pathology specialist or also known as a pathologist, masters the medical field of pathology, which is a branch of medicine that focuses on learning all the ins and outs of a disease. In general, pathology studies how a disease is suffered by a patient, as well as how it can trigger abnormalities or affect the functions and structures of the body. In other words, a pathologist has the ability to provide the explanation behind what triggers a disease, the mechanism of disease progression, all the way to the effects of a disease. To master the field of pathology, one must also understand the branches of chemistry, haematology, and microbiology.

Pathology is arguably the most fundamental and imperative medical science to study. This is due to pathology being a doctor’s guide in knowing and understanding the causes of a particular disease and the nature of the disease itself. Thus, a pathologist will be able to provide a more comprehensive diagnosis of a disease.

Even though the ability to provide a diagnosis can be done by various doctors, a pathologist is equipped with deeper expertise and understanding. When analysing a disease, a pathologist can examine changes in body fluids, tissues, organ samples, and blood, which are then interpreted. These various analyses are carried out by pathologists in the laboratory since the pathologist’s main task is to provide a more accurate diagnosis.

In doing their job, pathologists generally work with various medical personnel such as other specialist doctors, surgeons and internal medicine specialists to take tissue or organ samples. When working together with laboratory personnel, pathologists also conduct blood and urine collection.

Through a series of tests conducted, a pathologist can determine the factors that lead to the appearance of the disease, the presence of the disease in the body, and the extent of its severity. Through examination, a pathologist can also determine the proper treatment for the patient and preventive measures to minimise the impact of the disease. The results of the examination will then be compiled in a pathology report, which will be used to diagnose and determine the treatment that suits the patient.

Becoming a well-qualified pathologist takes  a long time. Similar to other medical specialties, it begins with a four-year undergraduate study program. After that, there is a 4-year training program, which is then followed by a 2-year-long education in anatomical pathology or clinical pathology.

Sub-specialties in Pathology

There are two types of sub-specialties in the field of pathology, which are clinical pathology and anatomical pathology:

  • Clinical pathology, a pathology sub-specialty that focuses more on examining fluids including urine, blood, sputum, joint fluid, pus, bone marrow, brain fluid, lung fluid, abdominal cavity fluid, and various other fluids contained in the body. The clinical pathology specialist will conduct an analysis of the sample of the fluid to determine the presence of chemical substances, mineral levels, cholesterol levels, blood sugar conditions, antibodies, and antigens.Clinical pathology is a part of integrated services covering the fields of haemostasis, clinical microbiology, haematology, oncology, infectious diseases, metabolic-endocrine, allergy-immunology, respiratory and cardiovascular system, hepatogastroenterology, and urology.

    A clinical pathologist can provide the results of laboratory tests with a more accurate interpretation since they understand the function and mechanism of laboratory equipment. The interpretation can then be used by other specialists in administering medical procedures for patients.

  • Anatomical pathology, a pathology sub-specialty that focuses more on examining samples of organs or tissues in order to detect the presence of diseases or abnormalities in the body. In examining samples of certain body parts, anatomical pathologists perform biopsy procedures with the help of a microscope, which is then usually followed by surgical procedures. A biopsy examination performed by an anatomical pathology specialist can be done to check for tumors and cancer, diseases that affect the liver and kidneys, infections, autoimmune or abnormalities that occur in tissues or cells.Through examinations carried out by an anatomical pathologist, the nature of the tumor in the patient’s body can be detected and assessed, whether it is benign or malignant, as well as what stage of cancer the patient is at.

Branches of Medicine in Pathology

  • Cytopathology, a branch of pathology that studies the size, shape and characteristics of normal or abnormal cells. One example of a pathological examination that applies cytopathology is the pap smear.
  • Forensic pathology, a branch of pathology that serves to support legal investigations or judicial processes. One example of a pathological forensic examination is a post-mortem or autopsy.
  • Pediatric pathology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems or disorders that occur in infants, children and adolescents.
  • Neurological pathology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems that occur in the brain and nervous system.
  • Genetic pathology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems related to congenital diseases or genetic disorders.
  • Haematology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems that occur in the blood. Hematological pathology is normally used to detect various blood diseases such as leukemia, anemia, or hemophilia. This pathology also prevails before blood donation-transfusion.
  • Microbiology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems that occur due to bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal infections.
  • Immunopathology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health disorders related to the immune system.
  • Dermatopathology, a branch of pathology that focuses on examining various health problems that occur in the skin. This pathology examination is performed to detect psoriasis, lichen planus, and skin cancer.

Diseases Treated by Pathologists

The main responsibility of a pathologist is to examine and detect diseases or abnormalities in the body. Through pathological examination, a proper diagnosis can be made according to medical standards and procedures.

In general, below are some diseases that can be diagnosed by a pathologist:

  • Tumor
  • Cancer
  • Coronary Disease
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver diseases
  • Infections

Medical Procedures That Can Be Performed by Pathologists

A pathologist can perform various medical procedures to find out information related to a patient’s illness. By performing a series of examinations using body fluids (clinical pathology) or tissue samples (anatomical pathology), a pathologist can provide the correct diagnosis.

Biopsy examinations performed by anatomical pathologists can be divided into several types based on their techniques and field –  the types include needle biopsy, punch biopsy, surgical biopsy, excisional biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, and bone marrow biopsy.

When to See a Pathologist? 

When a patient needs a second opinion regarding the diagnosis, seeing a pathologist may be an option. A qualified pathologist is able to perform laboratory-based analysis to provide a more accurate diagnosis, complete with an explanation of the triggers and the disease status.

Even so, the majority of patients rarely meet with a pathologist in person – pathologists often work with specialist doctors instead.

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