Surgical pathology in cancer diagnosis: implications for quaternary prevention

Matthieu Yver


Surgical pathology is the medical specialty in charge of cancer diagnosis. Although very important since oncology development, its link with overdiagnosis and overtreatment remains understudied. Despite big mediatisation, molecular biology has not brought much progress to tumour classifications. On the contrary, the silent apparition of immunohistochemistry at the end of the 1980's improved much of tumour classifications so significantly that it could cast doubts in some trials’ results of that period. This article discusses how the booming and abuse of immunohistochemistry might have led to overdiagnosis. It also highlights that the ISO 15189 standardization, as well as the tumour classification complexity, might function to induce overtreatment. In summary, critical reading and understanding of pathology reports by general practitioners are essential. Therefore, family doctors should not hesitate to discuss the cancer diagnosis with the pathologist, and in some cases also question the oncologist decision. This approach can be considered a quaternary prevention action which can prevent overtreatment.


Quaternary Prevention; Pathology, Surgical; Uterine Cervical Neoplasms; Conflict of Interest.

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