Pathology Report

What is a Pathology Report?

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To classify exactly which kind of breast cancer you have, your doctor may take a biopsy of your tumour, which is a sample taken from the tumour either during an operation or using a needle. That sample tissue is then studied in a lab to determine exactly which kind of tumour it is. Tests look for different substances in the tumour and each test result is assigned a status – such as positive or negative. The results are called your pathology report. Knowing the details about the tumour helps the surgeon to understand how quickly or slowly the cancer might grow and which treatments are likely to deliver the best results.

For breast cancer, a doctor wants to know a cancer's hormone-receptor status and HER2, or Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2 protein, status.

  • About hormone-receptor status: Hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone play a role in the growth of many breast cancers, and it is important to know whether a tumour is positive or negative for either of these hormone-receptors. An oestrogen-receptor-positive tumour is called “ER+” and a progesterone-receptor-positive tumour is called “PR+”. Tumours that are positive for either of these hormone-receptors may benefit from hormonal therapy.
  • About HER2 status: Similarly, HER2 status can tell you if the breast cancer is a more aggressive form and which treatments are likely to provide the most benefit. HER2 status and hormone-receptor status are not the same thing, and being positive for one does not mean the cancer is positive for the other.
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