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Meet the Doctor's Doctor: Understanding the Role of a Pathologist

Pathologists are a crucial member to a patient's diagnostic team and play one of the most important roles in diagnosing and staging cancer. A pathologist, often referred to as a "doctor's doctor," is a physician who deals with the causes and nature of disease and contributes to diagnosis, prognosis and treatment through knowledge gained by the laboratory application of the biologic, chemical and physical sciences. The pathology report is a document prepared by a pathologist that contains findings from the specimen, cells, and fluid examination which is used as a roadmap to help determine a patient's prognosis and treatment strategies.

Before a cancer diagnosis, a pathologist will use their specialized skills and high-tech tools to identify if tumors are malignant or benign, assign risk factors and diagnosis, and determine where they fall on the cancer spectrum. He or she understands how disease is manifested at the cellular and tissue level and partner with cancer diagnostic and treatment specialists to determine individualized care plans based on molecular findings. From the report, the multidisciplinary team of the Tumor Board will develop a personalized treatment strategy.

Utilizing this expertise, El Camino Hospital has five year cancer survival rates that exceed most other cancer programs. With these successful cancer survival rates, the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center is expanding to offer enhanced services to better meet the needs of our community. Save the Date: The new Cancer Center will be unveiled in Spring 2015.

This story first appeared in the February 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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