If you have a new breast cancer diagnosis, you will need help understanding your pathology report!
There will be all sorts of new terms to come to grips with and all kinds of things you will want to know in order to determine your course of action.
The Pathology Report
When you have a biopsy, the tissue removed from your breast is sent to a pathologist.
The pathologist is the physician who looks at the tissue under a microscope and determines whether or not the cells contain cancer.
He/she then prepares a report of the findings, including the diagnosis, and sends it to the ordering physician (either your surgeon or your oncologist).
Along with other test results or X-rays, the pathology report will help to guide your diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.
Ideally, an interdisciplinary team that includes your oncologist, radiologist, surgeon and pathologist will plan your treatment. I also included a naturopath and Chinese medicine doctor and I found that this approach worked beautifully for me.
Always ASK FOR A COPY of your pathology report from your doctor for you to keep with your medical records. It can be hard to take in all the findings at once and having a copy of the report you can refer to later is really helpful.
The Susan G Komen Foundation has a great checklist of questions to ask your doctor about your pathology report: Questions to Ask Doctor About Biopsy .
Print it out and take it with you.
Helping You Understand the Pathology Report
Okay, now here’s the difficult part – you’ve got your report, your doctor has told you a bunch of things and now you have to make sense of it all.
Invasive what? How big was it again? Staging? Grade? The tumor had hormone receptors? What does it all mean?
Fortunately, www.breastcancer.org has created a 23-page report which does a good job at explaining what all those terms mean for YOU. How I wish I’d had this report when I was going through this!!!
Here it is: Your Guide to the Breast Cancer Pathology Report
They also offer some good advice: “Don’t focus too much on any one piece of information by itself. Try to look at the whole picture as you think about your options.”
The report explains all about types of breast cancer, grades, staging, margins, hormone receptors, and a good explanation of what HER2 means (page 11). It’s absolutely awesome, I’m so glad someone put this together to help us make sense of this!
The only thing I would add to this is to say that your level of determination to beat this is just as important as anything the doctor recommends.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach). It is my honor to help you through this.