Although oncologists are doctors whose expertise lies in diagnosing, understanding, and treating cancer, many of the principles that they use are linked to pathology. In fact, pathologists are sometimes called the “doctors' doctors” because their specialized knowledge in the diagnosis, cause, development, and characteristics of disease is applied in various branches of the medical field and is relied upon by treating physicians in order to determine treatment options for their patient.
For example, while an oncologist can assume whether a tumor could be cancerous or not, he needs to have a closer look at it by acquiring a sample through biopsy and have it microscopically examined by a pathologists and possibly tested for specific markers to find out if it is either “benign” or “malignant.” Not all tumors are cancer related, and some could even be harmless masses developed by the body as it heals itself after a certain injury.
Cancer cells can cause tumors as these are cells whose functions have gone awry and triggered abnormal tissue growth. The main risk in cancerous tumors is that they could eventually spread to other tissues and affect the entire body.
By taking a close look through a microscope, a pathologist is able to identify certain aspects of the biopsy or sample sent to the lab and make conclusions as to its origin or source.
Cancer can also be identified even further through microscopic examination or different tests to determine the stage, grade or nature, of the disease, in order to help determine a patient’s prognosis and possible treatment options. These tests are also performed and analyzed by pathologists and can help a treating physician tremendously.