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Posted on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8 a.m.

U-M doctors explain what every cancer patient needs to know about diagnosis, grade and stage

By Betsy de Parry

University of Michigan pathologist Dr. Kojo Elenitoba-Johnson and oncologist Dr. Harry Erba recently starred in reports that aired on the PBS show A Wider World and are available at the end of this article.

The reports are packed with information that every patient needs to know when diagnosed with cancer — information about biopsies, pathology, grading, staging, and more.

You'll also see still photos of Dr. Erba and Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson at a microscope where they were working together on a real case.

This close collaboration between oncologists and pathologists takes on an even more significant role as cancers are increasingly being identified by their individual genetic signatures because correctly identifying them — the very foundation of developing the treatment plan that can lead to the best outcome — is more likely when highly trained, experienced specialists sit together, look at the same thing, and discuss it.

This doesn't happen everywhere. Larger facilities like U-M have sophisticated diagnostic tools and specialists who routinely work closely together while smaller facilities often send biopsies to distant labs because they don't have the specialists or resources on site.

And so I repeat the title of an earlier article for which I interviewed Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson: Know Thy Pathologist.

Enjoy the shows!

Kojo Elenitoba-Johnson. M.D., is the Henry Clay Bryant Professor of Pathology; Director, Division of Translational Research; Director, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory; and Director, Molecular Genetic Pathology Fellowship Program

Harry Erba, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. He specializes in acute/chronic leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and other malignant blood diseases.

Betsy de Parry is the author of Adventures In Cancer Land and the producer of the Candid Cancer reports which air on the PBS show A Wider World in this area on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. on WTVS. Find her on Facebook, email her or follow Candid Cancer on Twitter.