Pathology reports and communicating with laboratory professionals when understanding diagnosis results can be vital in empowering patients.
Marsha C. Kinney, M.D., MASCP
President, American Society for Clinical Pathology
Patients are often unaware of the essential role the dedicated people in the laboratory play in cancer care and understanding their cancer results. They run the tests that screen and detect cancer, confirm a diagnosis with your primary care physician, and collaborate with your oncologist to determine the right course of treatment. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is life-changing. What follows for many patients is a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, tests, and treatments, and pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are there at every step, often behind the scenes. Now, pathologists and laboratory professionals are seizing the opportunity to provide more guidance and education directly to patients.
As of 2021, patients can directly access their pathology and laboratory results via patient portals. Oftentimes, patients receive these results even before their care team has a chance to review and discuss them. But without understanding what those results mean, it can be a confusing — and sometimes scary — time for patients.
Connecting the dots
Pathology reports contain all the information a patient’s multidisciplinary team needs to establish the right course of care, but that also means that these reports contain medical jargon that is unfamiliar to patients. Patients need resources to aid their understanding, and their primary resources are pathologists and laboratory professionals stepping into a patient-facing role to help understand and demystify test results.
As the leading professional association for pathologists and laboratory professionals, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) knows the importance of patients understanding their results and what those mean. ASCP is a member society comprising 100,000 pathology and laboratory professionals around the world, dedicated to providing high-quality, patient-centric care across the healthcare continuum.
We are leading the effort around patient-pathologist conversations, working with our Patient Champions program. This program educates patients and their caregivers on how to decipher pathology reports and laboratory results, so they are empowered and can collaborate more effectively with their healthcare provider to create optimal healthcare.
The laboratory is central — and essential — to patient care. Helping breast cancer patients in understanding their breast cancer results is one way pathologists and medical laboratory scientists provide care to patients and ease some of the stress of testing and treatment in their cancer journey.