Images courtesy of G. Méhes, University of Pécs, Hungary
"As is our pathology, so is our practice... what the pathologist thinks today, the physician does tomorrow."
--Sir William Osler (1849-1919)1
A woman visits her gynecologist for her annual Pap smear. The doctor takes a cervical swab and tells the patient that the results will be back in a few days. Now the woman waits and wonders, "Could I be sick, and not even know it?" The answer will come from the doctor by way of a pathologist, who specifies whether cancer is present, what kind it is, its developmental stage, and whether there's evidence of metastasis.
The majority of samples are normal; the pathologist needs to find the rare exceptions--the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack. Traditionally, the pathologist smears the collected cells onto a slide, stains them with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E), and then painstakingly examines the slide. Based on a first...