"We can cancel your upcoming surgery. The suspicious changes seen on your recent biopsy are completely benign."
This happy turn of events happened in my life yesterday, thanks to a second opinion from a type of physician few patients realize plays a role in their care: the pathologist.
Pathologists are physicians (MDs) who look through microscopes and use a variety of lab techniques to determine what disease(s), if any, are present in blood or tissue obtained with a biopsy. Their task is not as straightforward as putting a key in a lock and turning ("Yup, the key turns, so this is cancer). Pathology is an art that depends on sleuthing skills and judgment calls.
Some biopsies are straightforward because all the changes are typical and obvious for one specific type of cancer. Even a first year medical student could make the correct diagnosis. Other biopsies, like my most recent one, are difficult (if not impossible), to interpret. In these cases, second opinions help.
Until sophisticated tests are developed that make pathology an exact science, a second opinion from a pathologist has a place in Healthy Survivorship. If a biopsy has only subtle changes, or if the diagnosis is one that is often difficult to make, Healthy Survivors talk with their physicians about getting a second opinion from another pathologist, preferably one who specializes in the disease that is suspected.
As a Healthy Survivor, I hope and pray for accurate news. And if the accurate news is also good news, that's even better.