Increasingly, Cancer patients want to meet with pathologists!

A recent survey suggested that cancer patients are now increasingly looking to pull the curtains on pathology and wanting to meet with their pathology team, in order to understand their illness better. But let’s go back a bit.

Some of the most important or crucial team members in a cancer patient’s health care team are people they may never get to meet or talk with – the pathologists who examine their tissue sample and determine what type and stage of cancer they have.

At Onco Life Hospitals, we take pride in having the best pathology labs in Pune. And as interest in the patient-pathologist connection increases, we at Onco Life have been doing a lot of research to understand how patients might feel about meeting their pathologist and seeing images of their tissues.

A vast majority of the patients say that they are definitely interested in meeting with the pathologist to discuss their pathology report and to look together at their tissues. Overall, some insights that we at the best pathology labs in Pune have gathered are as follows:

Firstly, patients have revealed that meeting with their pathologists can be quite empowering for them. Secondly, they also thought that the interaction could clarify the process of how the diagnosis was made in the first place. In the sense, what happens to their tissue samples and how pathologists make decisions about the grade and stage of the cancer. And lastly, a lot of patients felt that it would help them have a deeper understanding of the cancer itself.

“Having the right information keeps me focused and helps me stay calm. In fact, I feel more grounded and in-control when I have the facts. And that feeling gives me the power to live on and fight” said one of our patients. “I have no clear idea about what the words on my pathology report say, it would be nice to have them explained” said a patient who has not experienced Onco Life Hospitals’ Pathology process. In fact she went on to reveal that there was a different grading of her tumour from one institution to the other. And discussing it with the consulting pathologist would have helped reduce stress and increase trust. Something that we at Onco Life Hospitals have always been conscious of – which is the reason why, we’re one of the best pathology labs in Pune.

At Onco Life Hospitals, we are diving deep into this matter. By asking ourselves a lot of questions. Like how many pathologists would be interested in participating in an involved patient-doctor approach and what would be the appropriate skills for communicating with patients. Also, there’s the big question of how these consultation programs would be funded. Obviously, we believe that like any other medical intervention, this service too should be studied to determine its value and efficacy.

One thing is clear though. In general, patient-centred communication has revealed positive results like reduced state of anxiety and distress. The patient’s quality of life is a sure value-add. What’s crucial also is this. Patient-pathologist consults should be enable the patient to make value-based treatment choices – like choosing lumpectomy over mastectomy in early-stage breast cancer or possibly the follow-up and treatment procedures.

In Onco Life Hospitals which houses one of the best pathology labs in Pune, patients often spend an entire day meeting with members of their care team to discuss diagnosis and treatment options. This group often includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and others.

The goal therefore is not to take away from the information that oncologists and others provide currently, but to offer additional information. Many patients are visually-oriented and are better able to absorb information when shown slides of their tissues. And have someone walk them through it all is a different experience altogether, as opposed to just being told to read a report. Some pathologists may also be able to answer some patient questions about lab reports better than others.

Another side benefit of this exercise could be improved communication between the pathology team and other members of the healthcare team. As one of the best pathology labs in Pune, we at Onco Life Hospitals sometimes get our patients to meet with hematopathologists on the team to better understand the science behind the disease. One of our patients who was given this rare opportunity was able to see her chromosomes, her bone marrow biopsy and her pathology slides and then meet with multiple pathologists and medical lab scientists to help understand the options available to her.

The important thing to know is that pathology plays an important role in determining and understanding the disease and we at Onco Life Hospitals give ample focus on transparency between the pathologist and the patient, in order to make cancer care meaningful and insightful.