The ability to diagnose and treat skin cancers quickly is crucial for timely treatment decisions and peace of mind for patients. Our practice is fortunate to partner with Hospital Pathology Associates, the largest private pathology group in Minnesota. Four Board-certified dermatopathologists work alongside specifically-trained lab technologists in a facility located in our Eagan office. The pathologists carefully analyze each skin sample, and diagnoses are reported back to the treating physician within 48 hours or less. In the past year, the team analyzed more than 22,000 skin samples and can average as many as 150 cases per day. This includes not only skin cancers, but also benign conditions such as rashes and other forms of dermatitis.
Upon arriving at the lab, skin samples are accessioned and processed the same day. Lab technicians assist the doctors in every step of the process to maintain the highest level of quality and efficient turnaround time. “Approximately 50-60% of the lesions sent into the lab turn out to be skin cancer,” said Dr. Jena Martin of HPA. “Skin cancers broadly range from basal cell carcinomas to melanoma, so each condition has a very different outcome and meaning.” Rashes can strike year round, and insect bite reactions can be found even in winter. “Cold weather can also bring an increase in biopsies of Pernio, also known as chilblains”.
The job of a Dermatopathologist requires specific training and precision to accurately diagnose samples that can be much smaller than a millimeter. The ability to diagnose a serious condition quickly can make a huge difference, particularly with melanomas. Dr. Martin and her colleagues are continually surprised by the number of melanomas found in young people, and emphasized the need for everyone to have annual full body skin screenings.
There are an estimated 1500 different rashes and skin tumors, making Dermatopathology one of the most specialized forms of pathology. Dermatopathologists typically train in a 4 year pathology residency, and then receive at least one additional year of training or “fellowship” in Dermatopathology, along with board certification. The environment at Dermatology Consultants helps foster what is a unique feature of Dermatopathology – the close partnership between the pathologist and dermatologist, working together to accurately diagnose skin conditions.