When I tell people I’m a pathologist, their first comment is usually about autopsies. Most people are only exposed to the field through watching forensic pathologists on television – the people who perform autopsies on murder victims. Admittedly, forensic pathology is the most exciting, cocktail party-ready aspect of our job. But it’s not what most pathologists do.
Most pathologists practice surgical pathology, which is diagnosing disease from tissue removed from your body. Perhaps our most important job is diagnosing cancer. Nearly every cancer diagnosis a patient receives was made by a pathologist, though the news is often delivered by an oncologist or surgeon who has read our report. We are called “the doctor’s doctor” for that reason. Ultimately, however, we are the patient’s doctor, and patients should know that they might benefit from talking to their pathologist.