Glossary of Terms

Accession number – A unique case number assigned to each specimen sample to be analyzed.

Anatomic Pathology – General term for the area of pathology that deals with the gross and microscopic analysis of organs, tissues, and cells, which includes surgical pathology, cytopathology, and autopsy.

Asymptomatic – To be without noticeable symptoms of disease.

Atypical – not usual; often refers to the appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.

Benign – of no danger to health, especially relating to a tumorous growth; not malignant; something that does not metastasize and treatment or removal is curative.

Bilateral – affecting both sides of the body. Bilateral breast cancer is cancer occurring in both breasts at the same time.

Biopsy – A tissue sample removed from the body for microscopic examination, usually to establish a diagnosis. The tissue can be obtained surgically or by aspiration.

Blocks – Hardened tissues encased in wax blocks ready to be cut and placed on glass slides.

Bone Marrow – the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones. It is the medium for development and storage of about 95 percent of the body’s blood cells.

Cancernot just one disease, but rather a group of diseases. All forms of cancer cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. The tumor can invade and destroy healthy tissue.

CAP – (College of American Pathologists) leading organization of board-certified pathologists advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine.

Carcinoma – a malignant new growth made up of epithelial cells tending to infiltrate surrounding tissues and to give rise to metastases; Carcinomas tend to infiltrate into adjacent tissue and spread (metastasize) to distant organs.

Clear Margins – Evidence of healthy or normal tissue that indicates disease has been removed.

CLIA – (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) established by Congress in 1988 to ensure quality standards for all laboratory testing.

Clinical Pathology – Laboratory medicine specialties concerned with diagnosing disease based on the analysis of body fluids.

Core Biopsy – removal with a large needle of a piece of a lump. The piece is sent to the lab to see if the lump is benign or malignant.

Cysts – Sacs or pouches of fluids and other materials that are encased in tissue with a membrane.

Cytogenetics – The study of chromosome material structures.

Cytology – The study of individual cells.

Cytopathology – Specialty of pathology on a cellular level with a focus on the diagnosis of diseases through specimens derived from fluids or smears.

DermatologyThe field of medicine that specializes in the treatment of skin disorders.

Dermatopathology – microscopic anatomic pathology of the skin using the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.

Diagnosis – Identification and determination of a disease.

Dysplasia – Abnormal development of tissue.

Effusion –Abnormal collection of fluids in the body.

Examination – The process of the analysis, identification, evaluation, interpretation, and review of specifically prepared slides by a pathology specialist.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Extremely simple and, in some cases, effective alternative to surgery for obtaining biopsies, in which cells are removed by safely drawing them through a fine needle.

Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH)Special cytogenetic procedure in molecular pathology to identify particular DNA or RNA features.

Flow CytometryMicroscopic analysis of cell particles in fluid samples through light waves.

Frozen Section – Part of biopsy material frozen immediately to enable pathological analysis in a few minutes on a microscope slide.

Gastroenterology – The diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders affecting the stomach, intestines, and associated organs.

Gastrointestinal Pathology – Specialty of pathology for diseases in the digestive tracts and organs.

Gross Description – An examination based on a description of material visible to the naked eye.

H&E Stain – Short for hematoxylin and eosin stain, a common staining technique with dye pigments that renders tissue elements in distinct colors, most often pink, blue, red, and purple.

Hematopathology – Specialty of pathology involved in the study of diseases of blood cell components, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.

Immunohistochemistry (IHC) – (New) A laboratory test that uses antibodies to test for certain antigens in a sample of tissue. The antibody is usually linked to a radioactive substance or a dye that causes the antigens in the tissue to light up under a microscope. Immunohistochemistry is used to help diagnose diseases, such as cancer. It may also be used to help tell the difference between different types of cancer.

Lesion – a destructive change in body tissue, such as a wound, injury, or inflammation

Lumpectomy – Common procedure to remove a mass from a male or female breast.

Macroscopic –An examination based on a gross description of material that is visible to the naked eye.

Mass – Distinct tissue growth or structure, often very common and benign, but outside the normal realm of development.

Malignant – cancerous cells that can invade other parts of the body.

Mastectomy – Medical term for the partial or complete surgical removal of a breast in cases of breast cancer.

Metastasize – when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

Microscopic – Visible only through powerful magnifying equipment.

Microtome – Instrument for cutting tissues and specimens into ultra-thin sections so that they can be examined with a microscope.

Mole – Very common growths of cell clusters on the skin.

Molecular Pathology – An emerging and growing specialty field in pathology that combines aspects of clinical and anatomic pathology, with a focus on the subcellular, molecular, and genetic levels of cell components.

Neoplasm – Any abnormal growth of new tissue; a proliferation of cells no longer under normal physiologic control. These may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Neuropathology – Specialty of pathology involved with diseases of the central nervous system, muscles, and nerves.

Pathologist – A doctor who specializes in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathology – the branch of medicine concerned with disease, especially its structure and its functional effects on the body; the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.

Pathology Report – The official diagnostic findings, based on reviews and examinations, and signed by the pathologist.

Polyp – Specific type of abnormal tissue growth on mucous membranes such as ones found in the colon.

Preparation – After specimens are obtained through biopsies, they are prepared for a pathology report with particular procedures such as dyeing, hardening, or freezing, and then sliced and cut into very fine segments.

Primary site – The place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the kidney is always kidney cancer, even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bones or lungs

Prognosis – An informed forecast of the probable course and potential behavior of a disease.

Renal Pathology – Specialty of pathology with a focus on kidney-related diseases.

Requisition – Laboratory orders with relevant information on patient, specimen type, and referring physician.

Review – The process of the analysis, identification, evaluation, and examination of specifically prepared specimens by a pathology specialist.

Slides – A general term for thin glass sheets used to fix specimens for microscopical analysis.

Smear – A sample collection of cells suspended in liquid and prepared for microscopical analysis by “smearing” them onto slides.

Specimen – A small part of a substance or organism that can serve as a sample for the purposes of medical investigation.

Stage – the measurement of the extent of the cancer

Surgical Pathology – Specialty of anatomic pathology for any tissue removed through surgery.

Tumor – an abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Urology – a branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract and urogenital system; the study and treatment of disorders of the urinary tract in women and the urogenital system in men.


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