Thanks to a colleague for alerting me to a recent story from the Boston NPR website written by a practicing pathologist on a recent experience with a patient who requested a one-on-one consultation with him to review her slides and current and future implications for pathologists and the practice of pathology. Schedule an appointment with your pathologist when the need arises. (Article by Dr. Michael Misialek (pictured)).
The smaller circle on the right is normal breast tissue. The bigger circle on the left contains the donut-shaped glands, with white centers, that are the telltale signs of an invasive breast cancer. (Image courtesy Michael Misialek)
“How much time do I have?” was the first question Mrs. C asked.
She had called me in a panic. Earlier in the week, I had diagnosed her with breast cancer. She called me after learning the bad news from her radiologist. A whirlwind of appointments with oncology, surgery and radiation oncology ensued, overwhelming her with information.
I knew her case — these cells and her pathology — well, having just presented the pathology at our weekly breast cancer conference.
I struggled to reassure her, telling her that treatment has advanced and catching it early was very encouraging.
But there was silence. I envisioned her on the other end of the line, nervous fingers playing with the phone cord. Finally she said, “It would give me great comfort to meet with you since you are a pathologist. I would like to review my slides along with you.”
It was an exceedingly rare request by a patient, but one I deeply welcomed.
I am a pathologist. I spend more time studying your cells and developing a diagnosis then your other doctors spend with you. For particularly tough cases, I ask my partners for help, even send images for another opinion to my academic specialist colleagues, who may in turn show them to still more pathologists.
Many eyes have likely seen your cells. Yet, I am often unseen by you, maybe even unknown. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can request a meeting with me, you can ask — as Mrs. C did — to review your pathology, whatever the diagnosis, benign or malignant. No request is too small.