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Surgical Pathology

What is surgical pathology?

Surgical pathology is the study of tissue samples removed during surgery. These are used to help diagnose a disease and decide on a treatment plan. Often a surgical pathologist provides consultation services in a wide variety of organ systems and medical subspecialties. Surgical pathologists give diagnostic information or second opinions. For example, a surgical pathologist may examine tissues removed during breast cancer surgery. This can help the surgeon decide if he or she should remove lymph nodes under the arm as well.

Surgical pathology includes physically checking tissue with the unaided eye. It also includes examining processed tissue under a microscope. New methods of tissue and cell sample exam include molecular diagnostics (DNA/RNA analysis). This involves analyzing DNA and proteins in the blood and tissues. This new technology makes it possible to:

  • Tell the difference between noncancer (benign) and cancer (malignant) white blood cells

  • Find early genetic changes that may result in cancer

  • Identify infectious agents in body tissues

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