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The Cancer Care Center
Pathologists are physicians who specialize in the examination and diagnosis of human diseases, including cancer. Their role in a cancer diagnosis at St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center is critical, as they provide essential information about the type of cancer that your physicians will use to create your treatment plan.
The role of pathology in a cancer diagnosis
If your physician finds a mass or other abnormality, like calcifications in the breast, or you find one on self-examination, your doctor will usually order two types of tests: imaging and a biopsy. The goal of imaging is to capture an accurate picture of the mass. The goal of the biopsy is to capture a sample of the cells to determine if they are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).
Once you have a biopsy, your doctor will send the tissue or cells to the pathologist. At the Cancer Care Center, our pathologists specialize in diagnosing different types of cancer from their appearance under a microscope. They will look carefully at the biopsy or other specimen removed at surgery and report to your physician about:
- type of tumor
- grade/degree of differentiation—how similar is the tumor to the normal tissue
- staging - tumor size and involvement of other areas like lymph nodes
This information is critical because it will affect your overall treatment plan. Pathologists provide detailed data about your disease that serves as the building blocks for the cancer treatment plan so your treating physicians can precisely tailor your therapy.
What can I expect if I have a biopsy?
Your doctor will give you a detailed list of instructions on how to prepare for a biopsy. Your biopsy may be performed in a minimally invasive fashion, depending where the mass is in the body.
At St. Anthony’s Medical Center, all our board certified pathologists are trained to diagnose all types of cancers. Many specimens are examined by at least two pathologists; for challenging cases, by all members of the department. The turnaround time, from the patient's biopsy or surgery to creating the final pathology report, which is issued to the patient's treating physician, is typically one to two working days for needle biopsies, and two to four working days for larger specimens.
To provide exceptional care for all of our cancer patients, excellent communication is essential. Our pathologists attend weekly Tumor Boards, which are meetings about patients and focused specifically on certain cancers. At this conference, treatment plans are developed with input from all the members of this multidisciplinary treatment group, which includes surgeons, oncologists, radiation therapists, radiologists, pathologists, and nurses and other supporting care givers. This group provides feedback from the Tumor Board to the patient's primary care physician, who sometimes attends the conference. This ensures the best possible care for every patient, every day, fulfilling our mission at St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center.
To contact one of our board certified pathologists, call 314-525-1145.
For information about St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center - St. Louis, please call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.