How Can You Make Sense of Your Lung Cancer Pathology Report?

Posted by Samantha Powell on November 29th, 2013 |

News Headline:  How Can You Make Sense of Your Lung Cancer Pathology Report?
Date:  11/29/13
Outlet Full Name: – Lung Cancer
Lynne Eldridge MD

In years past it was usually doctors alone that looked at pathology reports after a biopsy or surgery. But increasingly people are requesting copies of their medical records or are able to read these through a patient portal provided by their cancer center.

If you look at these reports it can be very confusing and the language foreign. Not a good situation when your doctor may recommend treatment based on the results of this report. Being an empowered patient by understanding a few terms may help you play a larger role in your health care.

When you see these documents, they first provide your identifying information as well as symptoms and possibly a tentative diagnosis. This is followed by what your tumor looks like visually. Under your report this may be written as “gross evaluation.” This doesn’t mean that your tumor looks bad, it is simply medical lingo for the naked eye view of a tissue sample.

Then it can get even more confusing. Don’t be alarmed if it sounds like the pathologist isn’t sure of what your sample or tumor looks like under a microscope. It’s common to see notations such as “the appearance is that of a non-small cell lung cancer with characteristics of small cell lung cancer” or other such “uncertainties.” Cancers all are different, and the appearance as seen under the microscope isn’t always “black and white.”

Further terms such as tumor grade, tumor margins, well-differentiated and poorly differentiated, are also confusing. Check out this article for help in making your pathology report a little more readable.

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