11 May 2022
Three reasons why digital pathology is crucial in the fight against cancer
Since March 2020, Covid has been making headlines around the world. But there is an older scourge that continues to grow: cancer.
Every year, more than 18 million new cases are diagnosed, and 9.6 million people die from the disease. According to the World Health Organisation, cancer will affect 29.5 million people a year by 2040.
Fortunately, early diagnosis allows less invasive, shorter, and more effective treatment.
In the fight against this deadly disease, time is of the essence. Every month of delay in treatment increases mortality by 6-13%. Fortunately, there is a secret weapon that we, at Unilabs, have been using for some time now: digital pathology.
Traditionally, pathologists have had to look at each sample through a microscope in the lab, but thanks to the digitisation of processed samples, all biopsies are scanned for histopathological examination.
The samples are fed into a scanner, which digitises them at a rate of 800 samples every six hours. Image resolution is 0.25 microns per pixel at 40x magnification - that’s excellent image quality.
These images are sent to the pathology director for distribution to the pathologists, chosen for their speciality. Thanks to this digitalisation of the process, pathologists from all over the world can be called in for a consultation. That makes it possible for the specific sample to be analysed by the person most precisely specialised in that part of the human body. And that results in a better diagnosis.
The pathologist analyses the sample, makes the diagnosis, and sends it to the specialist, who decides on the patient's treatment or contacts the specialist pathologist to discuss the case.
Digital pathology has at minimum three major advantages over traditional pathology.
The first two are quality and speed. Thanks to digital pathology, we can tap into a broader talent pool. With more talent at hand, the chances to find a specialist are higher, and a specialist will improve the quality and the speed of the diagnosis because she/he will be savvier than a generalist.
The introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the practice of pathology also benefits the quality and speed of diagnostics. Algorithms and artificial intelligence improve quality and processes and help with efficient case management, supervised, and validated by the specialist pathologist. These advancements are only available once a slide has turned into a digital image.
And the third advantage is employee satisfaction. Pathologists can work now anywhere, and this flexible and often friendlier work environment leads to higher satisfaction.