Understanding Your Pathology Report
Last updated: May 2023
Getting a lung cancer diagnosis can be scary and surprising, especially when it comes along with a confusing pathology report. The words used by your doctor may not make any sense to you. The medical terms may not be familiar to you yet. To better understand what you have been told, it is important to understand what your pathology report means.
Back to basics: what is pathology?
Pathology is the study of the way a disease works. A pathologist is a doctor who studies samples of blood, body fluids, and tissue to diagnose a disease.
The link between lung cancer and pathology
As part of a lung cancer diagnosis, your doctor will take different samples. These will get sent to a lab to be analyzed. This is called a specimen. Specimens are gathered during a biopsy, surgery, or through a blood test or urine sample and viewed under a microscope.
A more exact lung cancer diagnosis by a pathologist with knowledge from your pathology report is helpful. This will guide your oncologist in building a treatment plan targeted to your specific type of lung cancer.
Let's get in to it: what is a cancer pathology report?
A pathology report gives you and your doctor important information about your lung cancer cells. This report is not written for an average consumer to understand. It is a technical report written by physicians for physicians. However, you can still educate yourself about the information in your pathology report and understand some things.1
The information on a pathology report
Standard information that all pathology reports generally include:1
Microscopic description (the most technical section)
Tip #1: Ask for a copy of your report
Get a copy of the pathology report for your records. It may be hard to understand all of the medical language. But this report 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.
Keep in mind that a pathology report can be subjective and based on interpretation. Therefore a diagnosis is not always black and white. It is okay to ask questions and seek a second opinion of the specimen sample.
Tip #2: Talk to your doctor
When talking to your doctor about your pathology results, consider asking some of these questions:
Understanding your pathology report will help you be more informed and better prepared for treating your lung cancer.
Have you ever used videos as a way to advocate for lung cancer?