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Glossary of pathology 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.
Biopsy: Cells or tissues removed from the body for examination.
Blocks: Hardened tissues encased in wax blocks ready to be cut and placed on glass slides.
Clear Margins: Evidence of healthy or normal tissue that indicates disease has been removed.
Clinical Pathology: Laboratory medicine specialties concerned with diagnosing disease based on the analysis of body fluids.
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 cells.
Cytopathology: Specialty of pathology on a cellular level with a focus on the diagnosis of diseases through specimens derived from fluids or smears.
Dermatopathology: Specialty of pathology dealing with skin diseases.
Diagnosis: Identification and determination of a disease.
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.
Exfoliative Cytology: Extraction of cells from fluid in body cavities.
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.
Flow Cytometry: Microscopic analysis of cell particles in fluid samples through light waves.
Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH): Special cytogenetic procedure in molecular pathology to identify particular DNA or RNA features.
Frozen Section: A thin slice of tissue cut from a frozen specimen. Usually the pathologist joins the surgical team in the Operating Room and then prepares the frozen section in a cryostat for immediate microscopic evaluation and to offer a preliminary diagnosis. Frozen sections provide the surgeon information which may be critical to both diagnosis and treatment.
Gastrointestinal (GI) and Liver Pathology: Specialty of pathology for diseases in the digestive tracts and organs.
Gross Description: An examination based on a description of material that is 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.
Histology: The study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues, commonly performed by examining cells and tissues by sectioning and staining, followed by examination under a light microscope or electron microscope.
Immunohistochemistry: A processing method for locating proteins in tissue cells through the use of antibodies.
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.
Mastectomy: Medical term for the partial or complete surgical removal of a breast in cases of breast cancer.
Microscopic: Visible only through powerful magnifying equipment (also microscopical).
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.
Neuropathology: Specialty of pathology involved with diseases of the central nervous system, muscles, and nerves.
Obstetric and Gynecologic Pathology: Specialty of pathology concerned with diseases of the female genital tract.
Pap Smear: Very common test procedure named after pathologist George Papanicolaou (1883 – 1962) in which sample cells from a woman’s cervix are screened for abnormalities.
Pathology Report: The official diagnostic findings, based on reviews and examinations, and signed by the pathologist.
Pediatric Pathology: Specialty of pathology concentrating on child-related diseases.
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.
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.
Surgical Pathology: Specialty of anatomic pathology for any tissue removed through surgery.
Source: Pathology. (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2013 | Please visit College of American Pathologists for additional information