Colorectal Cancer Pathology

  • Charles LeVea, MS, PhD is part of Roswell Park's team of gastrointestinal pathologists.

Why the Roswell Park Doctor You Never Meet May Be the Most Important Person on Your Care Team

Roswell Park pathologists are a critical component in cancer care. Dr. Kuvshinoff explains their role in determining a successful treatment plan.

Patients with colorectal tumors interact with many doctors during the course of their treatment, but rarely do they meet the specialist who plays a critical role in the outcome: the pathologist who diagnoses their cancer by analyzing samples of blood, tissue and body fluid. Precise diagnosis is what drives patient decisions and therapy.

Personalized Medicine

Our pathology department tests each patient’s colorectal cancer sample for the presence or absence of specific genetic mutations or unique characteristics. This information allows the colorectal team to determine whether a specific patient would benefit from a specific drug or therapy, sparing others from undergoing treatments unlikely to help them. This type of testing is not available at all pathology laboratories. Roswell Park tests for:

  • Microsatellite instability (MSI): Helps predict the type of chemotherapy most likely to benefit the patient.
  • KRAS mutation: Indicates whether targeted therapies like cetuximab and panitumumab are likely to benefit the patient.

Game-Changer: 10 percent of patients received a change in diagnosis after coming to Roswell Park from another care facility.

How to Read Your Pathology Report

Cancer treatments are becoming more and more targeted, so an accurate and comprehensive analysis by a pathologist is critical in determining the best approach. Learn how to read your pathology report.

Second Look, World of Difference

Even if all you need is a second opinion from Roswell Park, we’re here for you! A second opinion is the best way to reassure you that your initial diagnosis of colorectal cancer is accurate and the recommended treatment strategy is right for you! Over a century, our specialists have successfully worked with community doctors, and are happy to discuss and share information, as needed.

When Should You Seek a Second Opinion?

It’s always a good idea, but especially important if:

  • Your physician or pathologist has not provided you with a full, clear explanation of your pathology report, in a language you understand.
  • Your physician tells you that you don’t need a second opinion. A good doctor will suggest that you get another opinion if there are questions about your treatment or diagnosis. If your physician is offended, find a new doctor.
  • Your physician wants you to have surgery tomorrow. Almost nothing in the world of cancer care requires that kind of immediacy, except patients with acute leukemia; cases in which a tumor is compressing a vital structure, such as the heart or large blood vessels; or certain other rare conditions.

If you’re still not sure whether to ask for a second opinion, ask yourself:
Am I confident in the diagnosis or treatment options I’ve been given? Am I comfortable with my treating physician? Has my physician clearly explained all treatment options — not just the ones he or she prefers? Are there clinical research studies offering new treatments for my cancer? Was my cancer diagnosed at an office or community hospital setting or in a comprehensive cancer center? Does my insurance plan require a second opinion? If not, what type of coverage does it provide for second opinions?

To arrange for a second opinion, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or fill out the online Become a Patient Form.