16:12 PM

Behind-the-Scenes Disease Detectives

When you are diagnosed with a disease, it may seem like your doctor is making all the treatment decisions. But, in fact, a team including pathologists and radiologists is often working in the background to help pinpoint what you have. Here’s why these doctors are so crucial to your care.

What is pathology?

In short, it is the study of disease. Pathologists are doctors who study tissue and cell samples under a microscope to accurately diagnose diseases, like muscular dystrophy and cancer, and assure you receive the best treatment possible.

How are pathologists different from radiologists?

Radiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injury using medical imaging, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound.

Where are radiology and pathology services offered at Lehigh Valley Health Network?

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) offers more imaging locations than any hospital in the region, featuring state-of-the-art radiology technologies – CT scans, PET/CT scans, MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, DEXA scans (bone densitometry) and fluoroscopy. Services are provided by Medical Imaging of the Lehigh Valley, P.C., with more than 75 board-certified and subspecialized radiologists in the areas of neuroradiology, body imaging, interventional and neurointerventional radiology, and cardiac, breast and pediatric imaging. LVHN’s pathology services are provided by the Center for Anatomic Pathology, part of Health Network Laboratories. The department includes 24 board-certified pathologists with expertise in several subspecialties including hematopathology (blood), dermatopathology (skin), and molecular and genetic pathology.

How are pathologists and radiologists part of your care team?

You may never meet your pathologist or radiologist, but they are actively involved in your care. For example, your regular doctor may suspect cancer and ask a radiologist to perform imaging tests and a pathologist to study tissue samples (from a biopsy) to con rm there is a tumor, its size, location, and whether it has spread. Pathology tests also can detect gene mutations, viral infections and other microscopic abnormalities. Together, this data determines your tumor’s exact stage (how advanced it is). Pathologists and radiologists then play a role on your care team to design the most-targeted treatment plan. As new genetic and molecular therapies are developed, pathologists in particular are also increasingly important in identifying good candidates for these leading-edge individualized treatments.

Often pathologists and radiologists contribute expertise to a tumor board. Read along at LVHN.org/tumorboard