Pathology, simply put, is the study of diseases. It deals with all aspects of a disease or condition, focusing particularly on the nature, cause, and development of certain abnormal conditions. Pathology also focuses on the functional and structural changes that occur as a result of a disease.
Pathologists use a wide range of tests to evaluate tissue, blood, and other body fluids. The results of pathology tests can help a doctor diagnose and determine treatment plans as well as monitor a patient’s progress.
Pathology has an important role to play in preventive medicine. Pathological tests help rule out diseases and/or detect them early. This makes pathological laboratories/medical labs critical to health care services. Furthermore, their role is only going to become more important and indispensable in the years to come as preventive medicines become the key factor to rule out diseases and incorrect diagnosis, detect abnormalities early, ensure appropriate treatment, and accurately monitor a patient’s health. Most importantly, preventive medicines work on the concept of detecting conditions even before the symptoms arise, and pathology tests are integral to this process.
While there are several specific fields of pathology (listed above), pathological tests are broadly divided into two major categories – anatomical pathology and clinical pathology.
Clinical pathology is a collection of all the analytical work performed in a clinical laboratory through specific pathology fields. These include clinical chemistry, dermatopathology, blood banking, hematopathology, neuropathology, cytopathology, forensic pathology, immunopathology, and pediatric pathology.
Clinical pathology consists of a wide range of tests ranging from simple blood and urine tests to bone-marrow biopsies. It includes testing blood, platelets, red and white blood cells, urine, stool cultures, as well other fluid tests to detect, diagnose, and monitor various conditions. Clinical pathology tests can be a routine health check, a diagnostic test aimed at detecting a particular condition, or follow-up tests to evaluate effectiveness of the treatment for a condition. Clinical pathology tests are often a series of easy-to-administer, convenient tests conducted at specialty labs to deliver quick and fairly accurate results.
Anatomical pathology deals with the microscopic analysis of body tissues. Anatomic pathology involves working closely with surgeons to diagnose tissues removed during a surgical operation.
This analysis can sometimes be done while the surgery is still in progress. The pathologist immediately makes a diagnosis so that the surgeon can take appropriate steps in the surgery. However, most often, the tissues extracted during a surgical procedure are examined over the next few days to detect the disease, its severity, and prognosis.
Testing tissue samples is as critical as testing body fluids. Tissue samples are critical when it comes to diagnosing serious conditions like cancers and tumors. Biopsies and such other simple surgical procedures that are either invasive or non-invasive can be used to obtain a tissue sample. This is then tested by the pathologist for a condition or conditions so that appropriate treatment can be carried out.
In addition to these two types of pathology, there is a third kind referred to as molecular pathology. While it is still a new branch in its research and development stage, this field of pathology has a lot of potential. Molecular pathology can aid in detecting conditions as serious as cancers by looking at the genes in a body’s cell. In particular, this branch of pathology can provide a more accurate and precise diagnosis of cancer.