How quickly are lab results available?

The length of time for an accurate diagnosis varies from case to case. Generally it takes close to 48 hours for the patient sample to be processed and made into a glass side for pathologist review. It then depends on the complexity of the sample, and if any additional tests are needed to determine the length of time required for an accurate diagnosis. In most cases lab test results become available 5-7 days after a patient sample is sent to the lab.​

What is a pathologist?

A pathologist is a medical specialist who studies bodily fluids and tissues under a microscope to identify and diagnose abnormalities. Usually the pathologist will be sent samples for diagnosis from a physician directly treating a patient.​​

What does a pathologist do?

A pathologist will examine patient samples identifying abnormalities and ultimately making a diagnosis. The pathologist then writes a report, called a pathology report, which details the diagnosis, and enables the physician to decide on treatment options.

What level of training does a pathologist have?​

To become a pathologist an M.D. degree is needed, as well as five years of experience in an accredited residency, and a one year fellowship in a pathology sub-specialty. Additionally, all UHN pathologists regularly attend workshops, conferences, and lectures to improve their skills, and learn new procedures. Because pathologists play such a vital role in saving lives, their training and expertise are heavily rel​​ied on by physicians, surgeons and most importantly patients. 

What is a biopsy?

It's when a small sample of tissue is removed from the body in order for it to be examined. The abnormal tissue removed is often part of a lesion, tumour, or mass.

How do you preserve the sample, post-biopsy?

The tissue is first frozen and sealed in a block of wax. It's then cut very thin by a special machine and a laboratory technician will stain the sample with dye so cells show when examined. Once the sample is stained it is placed on a thin piece of glass and sealed under plastic. This is called a glass slide, and it is what's viewed under the microscope.

Is it easy to identify the abnormalities in the sample?

Generally pathologist can determine the type of cancer or disease with little problem. However, some circumstances require further study, special procedures, and additional opinions before making a final diagnosis.

Does more than one pathologist read my slides?

In almost all cases, there will be more than one pathologist to review a patient sample. It's encouraged practice at UHN and improves the accuracy of the diagnosis, and the potential for positive patient outcome.

What happens when multiple pathologists don't agree?

If pathologists do not agree, additional opinions are needed, and a meeting will be scheduled to discuss all aspects of the case, until a consensus is reached.

Can I discuss the results of my pathology report with someone, if I have questions or concerns?

Your treating physician should almost always discuss the results of your pathology report with you, and address any questions you have. If there is still uncertainty or confusion regarding your diagnosis and the tissue biopsy, the pathologists at UHN are always willing to speak with you specifically about your report. Please contact the Laboratory Medicine Program's Pathology Department and an appointment can be scheduled.

Can I get a second opinion on the diagnosis of a sample?

It's completely understandable to want a second opinion on a biopsy diagnosis. Given an accurate diagnosis is essential in determining proper treatment, UHN's Laboratory Medicine Program is always willing to review patient samples sent from outside physicians and hospitals. Your doctor must send your slides and paperwork requesting a second opinion and no additional biopsy will be required.


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