Being diagnosed with breast cancer is a life-changing event. Along with the various emotional reactions you will experience, there is also an enormous amount of information to learn.
Think of the pathology report as an encyclopedia of information for breast cancer patients. The report is a collection of information that describes a patient’s breast cancer. The purpose of a pathology report is to provide your health care team with information about a surgical specimen or tissue sample. Unfortunately, the pathology report is sometimes written in terms that only pathologists and other medical professionals can understand.
The information included in the report is used to determine the exact nature of the specimen (non-cancerous vs. cancerous) and the characteristics of the tissue sample. If the tissue sample is cancerous, the description of its characteristics will give you and your medical team information about size, local extent of the tumor, staging, prognosis and possible treatment options.
Do not become concerned about any one finding on your pathology report. Most reports contain positive information and some that might be considered negative. The whole report is what is most important.
Waiting for test results can be agonizing. Remember some test results take longer than others and one test can lead to several different reports. Also, not all tests are done by the same lab. Most information comes within one to two weeks after surgery and you will usually have all the results within a few weeks. Your doctor can let you know when the results come in. If you don't hear from your doctor, give her or him a call.
Be sure that you have all the test information you need before you make a final decision about your treatment. Also, 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.
Different labs and hospitals may use different words to describe the same thing. If there are words in your pathology report that you do not understand, don't be afraid to ask your doctor what they mean.