The diagnosis

What is a pathology report?

A pathology report describes the results of any tests done on tissue removed from the body.

Pathology is the study of how a disease affects the body’s cells and tissues. Whenever you have tissue removed – for example, if you have a biopsy, breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy – a report is written by a pathologist. The information and results will help your specialist team decide which treatments will work best for you.

The amount of detail in each report will differ; you may be given more than one report and some test results will take longer to come through than others. You may need to wait for all your pathology reports before a full treatment plan is decided.

Waiting for your results

Waiting for your results can be very hard. How long you have to wait depends on a range of different factors and can be anything from the same day to a couple of weeks. Your specialist team should be able to tell you when your results will be ready.

When you’re first given your results you may find it hard to take it all in. It may help to take a relative or close friend with you. If you’re told anything that you don’t understand, ask your doctor or breast care nurse to explain. You may also want to ask for a copy of your report to read later in your own time.

Your report

In most cases, your pathology report will start with general information such as your name and date of birth, as well as your specialist’s name and the date of your surgery.

This is usually followed by a description of the breast tissue before it’s looked at under a microscope. This section of the report is called the gross or macroscopic description and may include information about:

  • size, weight and appearance of the tissue
  • where it was in the breast before removal
  • how it was prepared for the microscope.

Next follows the microscopic description, which points out all the features of the cancer seen under a microscope. Finally, there is a summary of the main points, sometimes in a list at the end of the report.

Remember that all the information in the pathology report is considered together when deciding about which treatments to offer you and their likely benefits. No one piece of information should be looked at on its own.

Questions to ask

To find out more about your pathology report, take a look at our list of suggested questions to ask your doctor and what they mean for your diagnosis.

Last reviewed: December 2013
Next planned review is December 2015

Get the latest breast cancer updates