The Department of Pathology at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center provides high-quality diagnostic services for a broad spectrum of diseases and conditions. Our physicians and staff provide an accurate and complete diagnosis so you receive the most specific and appropriate treatment. Many of our staff conduct research related to cancer, and are involved in teaching the next generation of doctors the skills they will need to understand the subtleties of the disease and to treat patients.
Our team of physicians, technologists, and support staff is well-versed in the most up-to-date techniques for analyzing your biopsy, Pap smear, aspiration cytology, or any specimen sent to the hospital laboratory.
Many of our staff conduct basic and applied research related to cancer, and are actively involved in teaching the next generation of doctors the skills they will need to understand the subtleties of the disease and to treat patients.
The role of the pathologist
A pathologist is involved in your medical care any time a specimen is submitted to the clinical laboratory for tests, or a tissue specimen is taken by biopsy or needle aspiration for tissue or cell diagnosis.
Pathologists are responsible for ensuring the quality of the testing, interpreting the tests, and advising your doctor about ordering and analyzing tests. For example, a routine blood test may show abnormal cells; a pathologist examines these cells to determine their true nature.
If you are having a surgical procedure, your surgeon may rely on the skills of a pathologist to provide a rapid diagnosis during surgery. For example, a pathologist can help determine if a nodule in the lung is due to an infection instead of cancer, in which case removal of lung tissue may not be necessary.
Your surgeon or internist may request a diagnosis for a sample taken by biopsy during your office or clinic visit. For example, your dermatologist may take a skin biopsy because a mole has changed size or shape. One of our pathologists specializing in skin diseases will examine the biopsy and report back to the dermatologist, who will use the information to guide treatment.
A cytopathologist, who has specialized knowledge of normal and abnormal characteristics of cells, may be called on to perform a needle biopsy. In a breast biopsy, this would involve placing a needle in a breast lump to extract cells into a syringe for further testing.