Accurate Pathology Diagnosis

Successful Sarcoma treatment begins with accurate pathology diagnosis. The first crucial step in cancer management is to assure that the pathology diagnosis (the biopsy) is correct and accurate. What is the basis for this statement?

A pathologist is the only physician who can make the actual diagnosis of cancer. He/she is a medical doctor with specialty training in the examination and diagnosis of cells and tissues under the microscope that have been removed from the body by various types of biopsy procedures. Based on detailed characteristics of the cells, it can be determined whether the tumor is benign or malignant.

It is a common misunderstanding that a cancer diagnosis can be made on the basis of X-rays, mammograms, blood tests and physical examination. While these studies may cause a great concern to your doctor that a cancerous tumor is present, it is only when the pathologist studies a biopsy from this suspicious mass that a definite diagnosis of cancer be made.

This leads to another important guideline for newly diagnosed patients: except in rare emergency conditions, specific treatment should not be started until the diagnosis of cancer is absolutely confirmed by the pathologist. The reality is that mistakes can be made in the diagnosis of cancer. It depends on the pathologist’s training, experience and judgment. In fact, a number of scientific articles have confirmed that such errors occur in cancer diagnosis in an average of 2-4% of cases.

Sarcomas are rare tumors that account for only 1% of all cancers. Therefore, most pathologists are faced with a sarcoma diagnosis perhaps a few times a year. These errors can lead to incorrect and inappropriate treatments that may cause serious medical complications.

If a patient or family member is aware of this possibility, there is an easy solution to catch most of these mistakes. It is important to obtain a second opinion from an expert pathologist. These individuals have spent many years developing expertise in focused areas of cancer diagnosis and are available to do consultations on pathology microscopic slides.

On Top of Cancer is a web site that provides information about finding cancer centers and physicians.

The staff has assembled a network of over 50 nationally prominent expert pathologists who are available to patients for second opinions. Currently, there are 8 pathologists in the group specializing in bone and soft tissue tumors. The site is financially independent and receives no funds from pharmaceutical companies or hospitals. The pathology consultants do not pay to be listed on the site.

The American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists recommend a second opinion for cancer diagnosis. The modest effort and expense necessary to obtain a consultation can be rewarded by the comfort of knowing that an original diagnosis was indeed correct. On the other hand, an erroneous diagnosis can be detected so that unnecessary and potentially damaging treatments can be avoided.

Contact: Barry M. Shmookler, M.D.
FAX: 301-231-4987
2000 Academic Oncology Resources LLC