What is the difference between an Oncologist and a Pathologist?

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Oncologists and pathologists are physicians who are linked by cancer. Oncologists treat the disease. Pathologists diagnose it. The two specialties are connected, yet significantly different.

Pathologists are, in essence, the detectives of the medical field. They spend their days in the lab. They examine body fluids, cells, and tissues to help identify diseases. Although pathologists are instrumental in determining what may be physically wrong with someone, they have little, if any, direct contact with a patient. Oncologists, conversely, spend a great deal of time with patients. Both, however, may be involved in a patient’s care. Pathologists also perform autopsies to figure out why someone died.

Oncologists are cancer specialists who may be medical, surgical, or radiation oncologists, and who may further specialize within the discipline. Pathologists diagnose all medical conditions and diseases, not just cancer. They may specialize in the diagnosis of pediatric or genetic disorders, skin diseases, diseases of the nervous system and skeletal muscles, diseases that affect blood cells; or in transfusion medicine or forensic pathology.

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