Histopathology (doctor)

Histopathologists are doctors who diagnose and study disease using expert medical interpretation of cells and tissue samples. The specialty determines the cause of death by performing autopsies and is integral to cancer management through staging and grading of tumours.

This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.

Doctor on phone

Nature of the work

Histopathologists work in the laboratory, both in partnership with laboratory scientists and doctors from other clinical specialties. They have an in-depth knowledge of both pathological and clinical aspects of disease.

The histopathologist is a member of the multidisciplinary team, assessing cancer patients and planning their further investigation and treatment. They also have key responsibilities for cancer screening – currently for breast and cervical cancer but with bowel and prostate cancer screening on the horizon.

In many hospitals, biomedical scientists are undertaking more of the ‘routine’ cut-up of smaller specimens, and in some cases are also conducting microscopic examination and report writing of cytological samples.

With an increasing ability to automate and mechanise laboratory processes, there is the possibility that histopathology departments will no longer be necessary at smaller hospitals, and work may be managed centrally in dedicated histopathology centres with larger throughput capacity.

Some histopathologists have specific clinical roles, such as taking fine-needle aspiration cytology specimens in breast clinics. However, they generally don’t see patients in person. Instead, they deal with specimens sent to the laboratory, or deceased patients in the mortuary.

Patient contact is limited, although they may see a patient to explain how their diagnosis has guided the patient’s treatment, or they may see the family of a deceased patient to explain the cause of death.

Common procedures/interventions

Sub-specialties

There are no sub-specialties within histopathology. Instead, there are CCT specialties to which you are appointed during training at ST3 level, after two years of general histopathology training.

The CCT specialties are:

There is increasing sub specialisation in histopathology, as in other specialties, with a decline in the traditional generalist histopathologist.

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Other roles that may interest you

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