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01 Biopsy: Introduction


This article is from the The Biopsy Report: A Patient's Guide, by Ed Uthman uthman@neosoft.com with numerous contributions by others.

01 Biopsy: Introduction

Many medical conditions, including all cases of cancer, must be
diagnosed by removing a sample of tissue from the patient and
sending it to a pathologist for examination. This procedure is
called a biopsy, a Greek-derived word that may be loosely translated
as "view of the living." Any organ in the body can be biopsied using
a variety of techniques, some of which require major surgery (e.g.,
staging splenectomy for Hodgkin's disease), while others do not even
require local anesthesia (e.g., fine needle aspiration biopsy of
thyroid, breast, lung, liver, etc). After the biopsy specimen is
obtained by the doctor, it is sent for examination to another
doctor, the anatomical pathologist, who prepares a written report
with information designed to help the primary doctor manage the
patient's condition properly.

The pathologist is a physician specializing in rendering medical
diagnoses by examination of tissues and fluids removed from the
body. To be a pathologist, a medical graduate (M.D. or D.O.)
undertakes a five-year residency training program, after which he or
she is eligible to take the examination given by the American Board
of Pathology. On successful completion of this exam, the pathologist
is "Board-certified." Almost all American pathologists practicing in
JCAHO-accredited hospitals and in reputable commercial labs are
either Board-certified or Board-eligible (a term that designates
those who have recently completed residency but have not yet passed
the exam). There is no qualitative difference between
M.D.-pathologists and D.O.- pathologists, as both study in the same
residency programs and take the same Board examinations.


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