Breast cancer pathologist: Getting the right diagnosis is crucial

When I first went to medical school, I thought I’d be a cardiologist. My dad was very sick with heart disease while I was growing up, so I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I saw how the cardiologists treated him and other patients, and I wanted to heal people in the same way. But once I actually got to medical school, I found that I was more interested in following pathology specimens to the lab to find out what my patients actually had, rather than in caring for them at their bedsides. I also loved the mental challenge of making a diagnosis, especially in very unusual or difficult cases. Precise treatments based on precise diagnoses All patients who come to MD Anderson will have their diagnoses confirmed by one of our pathologists. We do this first to make sure that their staging is correct, their tumor size is correct and their margin assessment is correct — because all of these factors can affect which treatment options they’re offered. About 25% of our patients will see a change in their diagnosis. That means one out of every four times, a second opinion can be a game-changer. That’s why I believe everyone should get a second opinion, whether they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or not. It doesn’t happen very often that we change someone’s diagnosis from benign to malignant or from malignant to benign, but when we do, it is very significant. Because we offer precise treatments based on precise diagnoses. So, even a slight adjustment can affect, for instance, what treatment options patients are offered first, such...