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The difference between Radiology & Pathology

The difference between Radiology & Pathology

Radiology & Pathology are completely different medical specialities.

The medical field is made up of hundreds of different job titles and descriptions. When we think of medical professionals, many of us only consider doctors and nurses, but it takes a whole team of staff to run hospitals. From the admin crew, who facilitate the files and medical aid management, to the doctors, technicians, radiologists, pathologists, physiotherapists and many more, it can be confusing to keep up with who does what and how they do it!

Two types of specialists that may be lesser known are radiologists and pathologists. Their disciplines are sometimes confusing to those who aren’t in the know, but their roles are in fact vastly different.

Mitch Schnall, MD, PhD, radiology department chair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an article on Diagnostic imaging: A more significant link between radiology and pathology could also increase radiology’s involvement in molecular medicine. It could also increase a wide variety of medical research endeavours, said Martin Pomper, MD, PhD, a Johns Hopkins radiologist with an interest in pathobiology.

“The idea is to personalise how we treat patients based on their unique characteristics,” Schnall continued. “The idea of developing data that characterises someone really gets to the heart of what diagnosis is about. It’s crucial to realising any benefit.”

When it comes to accuracy in diagnosing patients, there is definite merit in pairing both disciplines by combining the high-definition, advanced imaging from radiology with existing high-tech tools from pathology.

Providing pathologists with advanced images down to micro-level accuracy allows them to see tissue architectures and abnormalities better. The added logistical data from imaging studies could make it easier for pathologists to sample and analyse the correct part of the tissue sample, Michael Feldman, pathology and laboratory medicine associate professor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania continued.

What is pathology?

The field of pathology is focused on studying diseases. You may have heard of the pathology department if you have ever had any samples of your bodily fluids like saliva, blood, urine and the likes sent to the hospital’s laboratory.

Pathology is the in-depth study of diseases, their origin and how they behave. When we speak of how diseases behave, it merely refers to how they spread and react to their environments.

Pathologists are the people we envision when we speak of scientists in lab coats, looking intensely at microbes through the lens of a microscope.

Affinity Health wrote in an article earlier in 2020 that there are, in fact, several occupations within the field of pathology. Usually, pathologists operate in teams of mixed discipline physicians. Teams consist of doctors with specialist laboratory training or scientists with specialist clinical training. There has to be a mixture to give the team the best chance of identifying the different strains of bacteria and understanding them in each respect. When it comes to understanding what is wrong with a patient, doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical staff look to pathologists and consultant clinical scientists for advice.

Pathologists and their respective teams focus on four main points: Causes, the mechanics of development, structural cell alteration and clinical manifestations.

What is radiology?

The field of radiology focuses on the science behind the X-rays and other high-energy radiation procedures, especially the use of such radiation for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. It is simple to see how it goes hand in hand with pathology in this regard.

X-rays are commonly used to detect a range of conditions, from abnormal internal growths to pregnancy, through the use of ultrasound. If you have ever broken a bone or had a fracture, your physician would have sent you to have X-rays taken to see the full extent of your internal injury.

Radiology is also known as diagnostic imaging. It is the use of technology that can see inside the body (the organs, bones, etc) and offers an image to assist with your diagnosis.

How do x-rays work?

An X-ray is produced when a negatively charged electrode is heated by means of electricity. Electrons are released, creating energy. This energy is then directed at high velocity toward a metal plate called an anode. An X-ray is produced when the energy collides with the atoms in the metal plate, explains Independent Imaging.

When you go to have an X-ray done, a cassette is placed behind or under the area of concern (the part of the body that is being examined, or is suspected to have the ailment). This cassette holds the film that will be exposed by the X-ray. As the X-ray enters your body, it passes through your skin, muscles and organs, as this type of soft tissue cannot absorb the energy of the X-ray. This appears dark on the film as it is now exposed. However, bone absorbs X-ray energy and does not expose the film. This area appears as white on the film. From there, your radiographer will examine the images and will be able to spot any abnormalities on the X-ray, and in turn, find the problem area in your body. 

Affinity Health – Radiology & Pathology

Basic radiology and pathology are covered by certain Affinity Health packages, when the treatment is recommended by your GP.

Check out Affinity’s Combined Plan, designed to give you the best of both worlds and help you cover the everyday costs of staying healthy such as going to the doctor or dentist.