©2019 by Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT IS CANCER?

All cases of cancer, must be diagnosed by removing a sample of tissue from the patient and sending it to a pathologist for examination. Any organ in the body can be biopsied using a variety of techniques, some of which require major surgery while others do not even require local anesthesia. After the biopsy specimen is obtained by the doctor, it is sent for examination to another doctor, the anatomical pathologist, who prepares a written report with information designed to help the primary doctor manage the patient's condition properly.

The pathologist is a physician specializing in rendering medical diagnoses by examination of tissues and fluids removed from the body. To be a pathologist, a medical graduate (M.D. or D.O.) undertakes a five-year residency training program, after which he or she is eligible to take the examination given by the American Board of Pathology. On successful completion of this exam, the pathologist is "Board-certified." Almost all American pathologists practicing in JCAHO-accredited hospitals and in reputable commercial labs are either Board-certified or Board-eligible (a term that designates those who have recently completed residency but have not yet passed the exam). There is no qualitative difference between M.D.-pathologists and D.O.- pathologists, as both study in the same residency programs and take the same Board examinations.