Sarcoma Pathology

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

Cancer patients see many doctors during the course of their treatment, but rarely do they meet the specialist who plays the most critical role in their outcome: the pathologist who diagnoses their cancer by analyzing samples of blood, tissue and body fluid. Precise diagnosis is what drives all subsequent decisions about treatment options and other patient choices. If the pathology is wrong, everything that follows will likely be incorrect as well.

Sarcomas are classified by their genetic makeup. We look at the chromosomes and genes of the cancer cells to determine the exact type and subtype of sarcoma, as well as identify any potential targeted therapies that we could offer this patient. - Carl Morrison, MD, DVM, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Never before have pathologists been so vitally important. Research has yielded an explosion of information about biomarkers and the genetic makeup of the tumor, that helps to pinpoint cancers and predict which are likely to become more aggressive, and which will respond more successfully to a particular treatment.

The RPCI Difference

RPCI is the only provider in the Western New York region that offers a full molecular pathology service, fast-tracking diagnosis and avoiding delay in commencing treatment. This includes the following key pathology studies:

  • Immunohistochemistry study: By adding an antibody, dye, or radioisotope to the sample of cancer cells, the pathologist looks for certain antigens or proteins, that help identify one sarcoma type from another.
  • Light and electron microscopy: Cells are viewed using a high-powered microscope to look for changes in the cancer cells.
  • Cytogenic analysis: Cells are viewed to look at the actual chromosomes of the cancer cell.
  • FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization): A process that allows the pathologist to look at the genes and chromosomes of the cell.
  • Flow cytometry: A test which measures the number of cells in a sample and can determine the percentage of cells that are live, or have a certain characteristic, size, shape or tumor marker.
  • DNA sequencing: Process that determines the order of components in a single DNA molecule.

Game-Changer: This past year, Roswell Park pathologists reported that over 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 sarcoma 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.