Unsung Heroes of the Healthcare Industry
A doctor you never meet may be the one who saves your life. Pathologists, doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and classification of diseases by analyzing cells under a microscope and through medical laboratory tests, often detect a disease in its infancy.
"Being able to treat a malignancy in its early stages increases the chance of recovery," says Dr. Hollenberg of Acupath Laboratories, a specialty medical lab based in New York. "This is when possibilities of a cure are greatest, and treatment is least costly."
Pathologists are the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry. According to the American Society of Clinical Pathology, laboratory services may be allotted to five percent of a hospital's budget, but they leverage 60 to 70 percent of all critical decision-making, such as admittance, discharge, and medication. They generate data that physicians use to make their diagnosis on infectious diseases ranging from cancer to the H1N1 virus, which is expected to resurge this fall.
When a pathologist examines a tissue sample, he determines whether a tumor is benign or cancerous, what type of cancer is present, how it looks (cancer grade), how far it has spread (cancer stage), and other aspects.
According to the National Cancer Institute, pathologists are on the cutting edge of proteomics, the study of all proteins in a cell, tissue, or organism. "The proteome is much larger and more complex than the human genome," says Dr. Hollenberg. "The hope is that proteomics may revolutionize methods for the early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis of cancer."