Pathology: Easy guide to What is Pathology and Career of a Pathologist or Pathology Student

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Definition of pathology

pathology is the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination to study the cause and effect of the disease. It is the bridge between science and medicine, as it gives the base to every aspect of patient care, from a diagnostic test and treatment to prevent disease through medicine.

The word “pathology” originates from the Greek word “pathos” meaning “disease or suffering” and “logos” means “study or treatise of disease”. 

Pathology refers to the predicted or actual progression of the particular disease and as a field of general inquiry and research, pathology stands on four-compartment of the disease: causes, pathogenesis( mechanism of development), morphological change, and clinical manifestation. 

The affix “pathy” is sometimes attached to other words to indicate the state of disease in both physical condition (like cardiomyopathy) and psychological condition (like psychopathy).

If we see the last 100 years, we’ve seen a convincing reduction in illness, as well as a major advancement in blood transfusion, vaccination, and treatment of inherited conditions, which is the great contribution of pathology.

Modern Pathology:

Modern Medical pathology is not only concentrated on a single disease, population, or organ system it is a wide field that covers all acts and aspects of diagnostic human pathology from contemporary issues of diagnostic accuracy to clinical medicine related to pathology practice.

Modern pathology provides the platform for understanding pathologic processes and evaluating new and existing diagnostic information of scientific advance and clinical correlations. 

Modern Pathology divides in compartments to for better understanding like;

Anatomical pathology is categorized into;

  • Cytopathology
  • Dermatopathology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Histopathology
  • Neuropathology
  • Pulmonary pathology
  • Renal pathology 
  • Surgical pathology  

Clinical pathology is categorized into;

Clinical pathology is a specialty in diagnosing disease concentrating on the clinical examination of body fluids such as blood, urine and tissue homogenates or extracts using pharmaceutical, microbiological, hematological and molecular pathology tools.

Clinical Pathology is further classified into two main branches:

  • Hematopathology
  • Molecular pathology

Anatomical and clinical pathology combining call as General pathology.

Clinical pathology

General Pathology:

General pathology is the broad spectrum and complex scientific field, which starts with understanding the mechanism of injury to cell and tissues, body response, and repairing injury. Areas of study include cellular adaptation to harm, necrosis, inflammation, wound healing, and neoplasm( abnormal growth of new cells).

General Pathology is divided into many different fields that study and diagnose disease using different methods and technology and based on anatomical and clinical pathology.

Anatomical Pathology:

The study of the effectiveness of disease on body organs, as grossly and microscopically is defined as Anatomical pathology

The primary act of anatomical pathology is to analyze abnormality that can help to diagnose disease and manage treatment. It is very helpful in evaluating disease conditions in the kidney, liver disease, an autoimmune disorder, and infections.

Sub Types of Anatomical Pathology

The two main sub types of anatomical pathology are;


It is a type of anatomical pathology that involves a microscopic examination of a tissue sample from the biopsy or surgical resection. This is often done by the special staining technique and other tests, anybody tests ( immunohistochemistry) to identify different components of the tissue, electron microscopy to more enhance the view.


Cytopathology is the study of a cell with a disease. As sampled fluid or tissue from the individual is smeared onto a slide and stained and examined count of cells on the slide, type of cells, how they grouped, and other details (shape, size, nucleus, etc).  If any suspicious cell is seen, a cytopathologist reviews the case and makes a final diagnosis. 

The anatomical pathologist also does a gross examination, electron microscopy, tissue cytogenetics, flow immunophenotyping.

Surgical Pathology:

Surgical pathology is the very compelling and time taking branch of pathology with a primary focus on an examination of the specimen with the naked eye( gross) or under a microscope (histopathology) for confirming the diagnosis of a disease.

the source of the specimen is of two types;


The biopsy is a small piece of tissue or muscle removed primarily for the analysis of surgical pathology for definitive diagnosis. There are 3 types of biopsy;

  1. core biopsies made with the use of a large-bore needle, sometimes under the guidance of radiological technique.
  2. An incisional biopsy is a diagnostic surgical procedure in which a suspicious tissue part is removed.
  3. EXcisional biopsy is a removal of the entire suspicious part.

Surgical resection:

Surgical resection is the therapeutic surgical removal of the entire diseased area or organ. This procedure is done as a definitive surgical treatment of a disease with the known diagnosis.

Clinical Pathology:

Clinical pathology is also called laboratory medicine, it is a specialty that concerned with the diagnosis of disease by laboratory analysis of bodily fluids like blood, urine, as well as tissues or other extracts by using the tools of chemistry, microbiology, hematology, and molecular pathology. 

Clinical Pathology includes steps like microscopic examination and evaluation, automated analyses, and lab culture.

What does a Pathologist do?

A medical pathologist is a physician who is trained to diagnose and investigate the cause and effect of disease or injury, through analysis of organ, tissue, blood, or other body samples.  

  • A medical pathologist is also classified as either anatomical or clinical pathologist according to their interest.
  • A pathologist who experienced both anatomical and clinical pathology is known as a general pathologist. 

 Pathologists considered as Doctor’s Doctor, which require extensive education, knowledge, and training, which comprised four years of college, four years of medical school, and three to four-year experience in the pathology residency program. 

Anatomical Pathologist investigates tissue and organs and conducts tests to identify the specific cause of the disease that has a more direct effect on patient care. While a Clinical Pathologist performs routine test analyses like body fluid tests, that have an indirect or less effect on patient care.

As Pathology is a wide field, Pathologists can seek further training to specialize in specific fields or practice like anatomical pathologists commonly pursue in cytopathology, forensic pathology, neuropathology, pediatric pathology, and surgical pathology. And Clinical pathologists commonly pursue in the blood bank and transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, clinical microbiology, cytogenetics, and hematopathology.

Pathologist training and carrier:

For becoming a pathologist, you must get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college and complete the required pre-medical courses like biology, physics, English, and social sciences. 

For practicing as a pathologist you need to get a medical license for which you have to pass a national exam. 

 After attainment of your license, you begin with a three-year residency program in either anatomical or clinical pathologist. Upon completion of residency, most pathologists will be awarded by a certificate from the American Board of Pathology(ABP) after passing a written and practical exam. 


Pathology helps the doctor to diagnose an abnormal and medical problem and use laboratory tests to monitor the health and find out the cause and effect of the disease.

If you are considering a career as a pathologist, the job prospective appears excellent.  Pathology is generally less stressful than other medical fields since you don’t face patients and work normal office hours.