diagnostics and screening

Laboratory and Pathology

Important services for cancer diagnosis and treatment

Both pathology and the laboratory play important roles in planning and delivering cancer care. This is true for both your diagnosis and individualized treatment. Pathology and laboratory are also involved in follow-up tests to check the effectiveness of your treatment and check your tissue and/or blood samples for any remaining cancer as treatment progresses.

Laboratory tests for cancer

Laboratory tests may indicate if cancer is present in your body or if you have unique genetic risks for certain cancers. This information can also help you and your doctor create a treatment plan customized for you.

One common lab test is the complete blood count (CBC). The CBC measures the amount of various types of blood cells in a sample of your blood. The count may indicate you have a blood cancer or can show you are fighting an infection somewhere.

Blood tests can also find proteins, enzymes or other substances that suggest you may have cancer. These tests can also give your doctor an idea of how well your organs are functioning and whether they are affected by cancer.

Some laboratory tests are based on genetic material in the blood (often called “markers”) that indicate the presence of tumors or risks for them. Sometimes these tests are repeated over time to see if these indicators change, suggesting a progressive condition.

Pathology's role in cancer diagnosis and care

Pathologists are some of the star players of your cancer care team. They work to diagnose and determine the stage of your cancer, indicating what the next best steps in your treatment may be.

A cancer diagnosis usually starts with symptoms your primary care provider suspects may be cancer. A small tissue sample (biopsy) is often taken by a doctor and sent to the pathologist, who analyzes it and describes what it is. This vital step helps your physician choose appropriate treatment customized for your unique situation.

The pathologist’s initial cancer diagnosis helps determine:

  • Exactly what type of cancer is involved.
  • What its particular features are.
  • What to expect for outcomes.

As cancer treatment progresses, this testing and analysis may be repeated to check if your treatment plan is working.

Your cancer team

At Adventist Health Portland, your cancer care is always a team effort. There are often many members on your cancer treatment team you may not even meet. Led by your oncologist, these team members include laboratory experts and pathologists.

Whether your course of treatment involves chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination of methods, ongoing and recurring lab and pathology tests will monitor your progress.