Pathology Terms

Pathology Terms

[mp_row bg_video_youtube_repeat=”true” bg_video_youtube_mute=”true” bg_video_repeat=”true” bg_video_mute=”true”]

[mp_span col=”12″]



Accession number: A unique case number assigned to each specimen sample to be analyzed.

Actinic: Related to sun-exposure.

Anatomic Pathology: General term for the area of pathology that deals with the gross and microscopic analysis of organs, tissues, and cells, which includes surgical pathology, cytopathology, and autopsy.

Autopsy: Postmortem evaluation of a body to determine the cause and manner of death.

Biopsy: Removal of cells or tissues from the body for pathological examination.

Blocks: Hardened tissues encased in wax blocks that are cut to produce glass microscopic slides.

Carcinoma: A malignant tumor composed of “epithelial” cells, which can be seen in almost any body location.

Clinical Pathology: A group of practice areas in laboratory medicine that is concerned with diagnosing disease based on the analysis of body fluids. 

Core Biopsy: A biopsy in which a cylindrical sample of tissue is obtained (as from a kidney or breast) by a hollow needle.

Cyst: A sac or pouch containing fluid or other materials that is encased by a tissue membrane.

Cytogenetics: The study of chromosome-related structures.

Cytology: The study of individual cells with the microscope.

Cytopathology: A subspecialty of anatomic pathology that focuses on the diagnosis of diseased cells in specimens derived from body fluids or aspirated tissue.

Dermatology: The branch of medicine that deals with the skin and diseases affecting the skin

Dermatopathology: The subspecialty of anatomic pathology which deals with skin diseases.

Diagnosis: Identification of a specific disease process by a physician.

Dysplastic: Structurally-abnormal.

Effusion: An abnormal collection of fluid in one or more of the body spaces.

Ellipse: An almond-shaped portion of surgically-removed skin, usually with an abnormal area in its center.

Examination (of tissue): The process of analysis, identification, evaluation, interpretation, and review of specifically prepared slides by a pathologist.

Excision: Surgical removal of tissue with a scalpel.

Exfoliative Cytology: The microscopic analysis of cells that are shed into body cavities.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): An alternative procedure to formal surgery for obtaining biopsies, in which cells are removed by drawing them under vacuum pressure through a fine needle.

Flow Cytometry: Analysis of cells in fluid samples using special light sources and detectors. 

Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH): A special cytogenetic procedure in molecular pathology to identify specific nucleic acid sequences in cellular nuclei.

Gastrointestinal (GI) & Liver Pathology: Subspecialties in anatomic pathology that focus on diseases in the digestive tract and liver.

Gross Description: An examination based on a description of material that is visible to the naked eye.

Gynecological Pathology: A subspecialty area of anatomic pathology that focuses on diseases of the female genital tract (breast, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, and vulva).

H&E: An abbreviation for hematoxylin and eosin stains, common biological dyes that give tissue elements distinct colors.  These are most often pink, blue, red, and purple.

Hematopathology: A subspecialty area of clinical pathology involving the study of diseases of the blood cells, bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes.

Histology: A branch of anatomy that deals with the minute structure of animal and plant tissues as discernible with the microscope

Immunohistochemistry: A microscopic method for localizing specific proteins in tissues through the use of antibodies that are labeled with biological dyes. 

Inflammatory: A term concerning diseases that are caused by white blood cells which abnormally enter various tissues.

Keratosis: A benign growth of cells on the skin surface.

Lesion: An abnormality in tissue that is seen with the naked eye or in x-ray studies, or felt by the patient or a physician.

Leukemia: A malignant proliferation of white blood cells that originate in the bone marrow and circulate in the bloodstream.

Lichenoid: Pertaining to a particular linear arrangement of inflammatory cells under the surface of the skin.

Lumpectomy: A common procedure to remove a mass from a male or female breast.

Lymphoma: A malignant proliferation of lymphocytes, which are cells involved in immune functions.

Macroscopic: An examination based on material that is visible to the naked eye.

Margins: Cuffs of healthy or normal tissue on either side of a disease (usually a tumor).

Malignant: Tending to become worse and end in death or having the properties of anaplasia, invasiveness, and metastasis; said of tumors.

Mass: A localized swelling in tissue which may or may not represent a tumor (neoplasm; see below).

Mastectomy: Medical term for the partial or complete surgical removal of a breast.

Melanoma: A malignant proliferation of pigment-producing cells in the skin or other organs.

Microscopic: Visible only with a microscope and not with the naked eye.

Microtome: A device with a sharp blade, used in the laboratory for cutting tissues so that they can be affixed to glass slides and examined with a microscope after staining with biological dyes.

Mole: A commonly used term for a growth on the skin, which may or may not contain pigment.

Molecular Pathology: A field in pathology that combines aspects of clinical and anatomic pathology, with a focus on molecular cell components.

Needle Biospy: Any of several methods (as fine needle aspiration or core biopsy) for obtaining a sample of cells or tissue by inserting a hollow needle through the skin and withdrawing the sample from the tissue or organ to be examined

Neoplasm: An independently-growing mass of cells in the skin or elsewhere, which may be benign or malignant.  Neoplasms also are commonly called “masses” or “tumors.”

Neuropathology: A subspecialty area of anatomic pathology that concerns diseases of the central nervous system, muscles, and nerves.

Nevus: A growth on the skin, which is often pigmented (colored).

Pap Smear: A screening test procedure named after pathologist George Papanicolaou (1883 – 1962) in which cells from a woman’s cervix (uterus) are examined microscopically for abnormalities.

Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathology: The scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.

Pathology Report: A formal document containing the diagnostic findings of a pathologist, pertaining to a particular biopsy specimen. 

Pediatric Pathology: A subspecialty area of pathology concentrating on diseases of infants & children.

Polyp: A specific type of abnormal growth on the skin or on mucous membranes, which projects above the surfaces of those tissues.

Prognosis: An informed estimate of the probable course and biological behavior of a disease process.

Psoriasiform: Resembling the clinical or microscopic image of psoriasis.

Renal Pathology: A subspecialty of anatomic pathology with a focus on kidney diseases.

Requisition: A formal request for laboratory services containing relevant information on a particular patient, the specimen type, and the referring physician.

Sarcoma: A malignant proliferation of connective-tissue cells.

Slides: A general term for thin sheets of glass on which tissue specimens are placed for microscopic analysis. 

Specimen: A small part of the human body—either tissue or liquid– that serves as a sample for pathologic evaluation. 

Spongiotic: A disease in which excess fluid is seen in the surface layer (epidermis) of the skin.

Surgical Pathology: A subspecialty area of anatomic pathology which focuses on the evaluation of any tissue that is removed by surgical means.