Getting a bladder cancer diagnosis can be scary and surprising. The words used by your doctor may be confusing; the medical terms may not be familiar to you. To more fully comprehend what you’ve been told, it’s important to understand the distinguishing characteristics of your individual pathology report.
Pathology is the study of the way a disease works. A pathologist is a medical doctor whose specialty is the study of the anatomical and physiological examination of blood, body fluid and tissue for diagnostic purposes. As part of a bladder cancer diagnosis your doctor will take cell samples for the lab to analyze. This is called a specimen. Specimens are obtained through surgery, scoping, or with a needle to withdraw tissue or fluid.
A precise bladder cancer diagnosis by a pathologist will aid your oncologist in recommending a personalized treatment targeted at your cancer’s individual characteristics.
What is a pathology report?
Lab results prepared by a pathologist provide information on cells or biopsied tissue examined with a microscope. A pathology report is generally technical and written by physicians for physicians. The report prepared by a pathologist is generally intended for urologists and oncologists.1
What’s in a pathology report?
Standard information on all cases generally contains: 2-4
Physician contact information
What the doctor anticipates the diagnosis to be before the specimen review
The type of procedure used to obtain the specimen sample
Macroscopic information visible to the eye such as weight, size, color of sample
Microscopic description (the most technical section)
Cell structure (histology): The kind of cancer identified such as: squamous cell, adenocarcinoma, or small cell carcinoma
Tumor margins: Whether or not there are cancer cells at the edge tissue sample
Pathologic stage: (T) Size and location of tumor, (N) whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, (M) whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body
Tumor grading: How cancer cells compare to normal healthy cells
Special tests or markers
Results of special tests performed in the lab to identify unique characteristics
Pathologic staging results
Other test results
Details on most important results in a table and indications for treatment options and recovery
Description of any issues or concerns with the sample or recommendations for additional testing
The name, date and signature of the pathologist reviewing the lab results
Ask for a copy of your report
Get a copy of the pathology report for your records. It may be difficult to understand all of the medical terminology but is an important part of the documentation you should keep. Reviewing the report with your doctor will help you better understand your diagnosis and treatment options.
A pathology report can be subjective, based on interpretation. Therefore a diagnosis is not always black and white. It is OK to ask questions and/or to seek a second opinion of the specimen sample.
Talk to your doctor
Your pathology report can be hard to understand yet useful in helping you to better understand what kind of bladder cancer you have and what choices you will need to make in treating it.
Understanding your pathology report will help you be informed and better prepared for treating your bladder cancer.
Hansel, D. Understanding Bladder Cancer Pathology Webinar. January 17, 2017 http://www.bcan.org/assets/Part-II-BC-Pathology.pdf. Accessed online September 28, 2017
Understanding Your Pathology Report. CancerConnect.com website. http://news.cancerconnect.com/cancer-treatment/surgery/understanding-your-pathology-report/. Accessed online September 28, 2017
NIH National Cancer Institue. Pathology Reports. Reviewed September 23, 2010 . https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/diagnosis/pathology-reports-fact-sheet. Accessed online September 28, 2017
Bladder cancer pathology. Roswell Park Cancer Institute website. https://www.roswellpark.org/cancer/bladder/diagnosis/pathology. Accessed online September 28, 2017