The Value of Pathology

| July 20, 2015

Last month this blog turned 8 years old with nearly 2,700 posts to date or about 330 posts per year on average.  Along the way in addition to news items, my thoughts, stories and remembrances of medical education and the like there have been a few guest posts.

The 1,000th post was a guest post by another pathologist, Dr. Ed Uthman entitled “Online Pathology: Moving Forward, Standing Still“. A few other pathologists and some industry leaders have contributed as well over the years.

But in the 8 years of this, I believe there has only been 1 post in a patient’s words posted on this site directly about what and how important pathology is.  Paula Takacs wrote the below story after this site underwent a facelift about 2 years ago, in her own words. I was reminded of her story and passion and her words of praise for pathologists and pathology on the heels of the mentions of Jimmy Valvano during ESPN’s recent fundraising for his foundation for cancer research and weekend mentions of what would have been Stuart Scott’s 50th birthday.

Welcome to the all new Digital Pathology Blog! Thank you for your patience as we continue to update nearly 6 years of content, images and links to this new site.

In honor of a new site, new host, improved look, feel and speed, the first post is guest authored by Mrs. Paula Takacs. 

I first met Paula about a year ago, a member of our community in Charlotte who shared her story about being diagnosed with a large abdominal/pelvic sarcoma following the birth of her child 8 years ago.  Her story was one of strength and a motivation to fight and with her business skills, founded The Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research, a 501(c)3 organization to raise awareness and funds for sarcoma research.  

We at are pleased to help support Paula, her foundation and the cause by supporting The Sarcoma Stomp, a family fun run/walk to help raise funds for much needed continuing research.

For more information on Paula, her story and the race in April, go to The Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research and The Sarcoma Stomp.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

by Paula Takacs

paulaAsk a cancer patient who his or her doctor is, and they will invariably mention their oncologist. Some will throw in their surgeon, others might give a mention to their radiation oncologist. However, one name that is often overlooked, but incredibly critical to the entire cancer journey is the pathologist. This is where the journey begins and from where the road map will be based.

It always amazes me how people are so quick to trust a doctor who they met for the first time with their life, without a second opinion. It may be the doctor’s gentle manner or the diploma on the wall. Typically with pathology, it is a nameless face on a report that goes unnoticed, as their eyes scan to the word “cancer” on the page. Yet, literally sight unseen, many will put all their trust in a single report.

I think few cancer patients realize how critical the pathologist is to their oncological team. An incorrect path report can lead a patient down the wrong road for treatment, losing precious time. Having a very rare type of tumor increases the likelihood of a misdiagnosis because some subtypes are so rarely seen. I know of two women in which differing pathology reports created the question of whether the diagnosis was sarcoma or endometrial cancer, which impacted which specialist to see. Ironically, after significant deliberation, the final diagnosis for both was determined to be endometrial stromal sarcoma.

There are over 50 different types of sarcoma, which represent 1% of adult and 15% of adult cancer. To further complicate matters, even within my subtype of liposarcoma, there numerous types including well-differentiated, myxoid and/or round cell, and pleomorphic, all of which can have very different outcomes and respond differently to treatment. This is why the pathologist is so critical to the process. It is no wonder that each time I have gone to a major cancer center, they insist on having their own pathologists determine the diagnosis.

When we learned the results from my initial biopsy eight years ago, well-differentiated liposarcoma with spindle cells, my husband and I decided to search out who in our region was an expert in sarcoma pathology. We chose Sharon Weiss at Emory to get a second look. It was a relatively simple process, and one that resulted in a more informed decision by our team. She confirmed the diagnosis, but added that based upon the level of necrotic tissue that she believed that there was a higher grade element as well. She proved to be right. We followed that protocol and included chemotherapy in the plan.

So as a cancer patient of eight years, I thank the pathologists who have led my oncologists in the right direction throughout my own journey. I am grateful for those extra steps that they take to determine the exact nature of the cancer beast, and just wish everyone could give them the credit they deserve.

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Category: Patient Advocacy, Personal

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