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Know Thy Pathologist

When you are facing potentially life-changing treatment or surgery for cancer, you may want to have several opinions from the best surgeons, the most experienced oncologists, and top experts in radiation therapy, right?  Well, there's another expert whose double-checking may be worth your while -- the pathologist. 

Studies done at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere have shown that making the right diagnosis matters and, whether it's reading a mammogram or analyzing cells on a slide, centers that treat high volumes of cancer patients fare better than those that don't.

Though we rarely meet, much less know the credentials, of the experts that analyze our biopsied cells, we automatically trust the printout that says, in far more complicated terms, that "you have cancer."

ABC News reporter Calvin Lawrence Jr., writes in his column, "Second Opinions Not Always Enough," that he got a third opinion on pathology results that said he had prostate cancer.  It was that third opinion, provided by Johns Hopkins experts, which put the kibosh on surgery just days away. 

Lawrence had the tenacity to send his slides to the world's experts in prostate cancer pathology, and it saved him his prostate.  It's a lesson to all of us that, when facing a serious diagnosis, we should "know thy pathologist."

Johns Hopkins pathology experts have provided Q&As on pathology reports for certain diseases, including several cancers.  They also provide instructions on getting second opinions on serious diagnoses.

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