Pathology as a field spans a large variety of specialties, but its two main divisions are anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. While both can work in tandem to help medical professionals determine specific diagnoses (and treatments), they are each distinct. Some of these terms may seem familiar to readers of our blog on the differences between pathology labs and clinical labs. Pathologists are often knowledgeable in both divisions, but for the sake of simplicity, this article will focus primarily on anatomical pathology.
Anatomical Pathology, also called Anatomic Pathology, is the division of pathology that studies diseases’ effects on the body, both as a whole and at microscopic levels. Its goals are to detect abnormalities, determine whether they are malign or benign, and assign the appropriate treatment. In most hospitals, tissue removed during surgery is sent to be examined by a pathologist.
Anatomical pathology is more commonly known for its uses in identifying cancers, but it also detects many disorders, infections, and diseases.
Some of the anatomical pathology specialties HRP Labs offers are:
- Breast cancer detection
- Molecular Genetic Pathology
The previous list is non-exhaustive, as anatomical pathology covers many other specialties, which can also fall under different subdivisions.
Histopathology involves the examination of tissue from a biopsy or surgery under a microscope. The examination process uses special staining techniques and other tests that help analyze the tissue components.
Cytopathology, also referred to as cytology, involves the examination of single cells or small groups of cells acquired from scraping or aspiration under the microscope. These cells can be procured from liquids as well as solid tissue, which is where anatomical pathology and clinical pathology overlap. Clinical pathology covers what is referred to as “laboratory medicine” and includes most routine bloodwork such as blood cell counts, coagulation studies, blood glucose level determinations, and other tests such as urinalysis. Clinical pathology tests focus primarily on determining the chemical composition of the sample and whether or not microorganisms are present.
Forensic pathology is also considered a division of anatomical pathology and specializes in determining an individual’s cause of death for legal purposes. People frequently and mistakenly associate all pathology with this subdivision due to its role in television crime dramas.
Pathologists are constantly learning and helping the medical field progress. They have a wide knowledge of diseases and pathophysiology that allows them to incorporate information from the many subspecialties mentioned to offer the most comprehensive diagnoses possible.