What are some gross descriptive terms I can use?
These terms can be used in describing diffuse or localised pathologies. Click on each of the tabs to see specific terms that can be used.
What do colours indicate?
Tan – Many solid tumours are tan (beige to pale brown). This term is often used to describe the cut surface appearance of a solid tumour. This is one of our ‘favourite’ colours, particularly in very well fixed specimens! (In most specimens, you will be describing 50 shades of tan!)
Pale – An area of lighter colour on a slightly darker background e.g. areas of pallor superimposed on a tan tumour often indicate coagulative necrosis. Areas of infarction in solid organs are often pale – e.g. wedge-shaped pale infarct in the kidney. In a malignant tumour that grows rapidly and outstrips its blood supply, pale areas of necrosis may be seen within the tumour. (Go to the Practice! page to see an example in a kidney.)
- Endogenous substances – e.g. blood – haemorrhagic areas are often dark brown to blackish. Melanin pigment is dark brown to blackish (hence a tumour mass that is blackish may represent a melanin-producing tumour, i.e. melanoma)
- Exogenous substances – carbon (e.g. in the lung, or in hilar lymph nodes), tattoo pigment
(Go to the Practice! page to see an example in a lung.)
- Processes involving bile accumulation, e.g. biliary cirrhosis, biliary obstruction, bile in the gallbladder
- Purulent material, e.g. abscess fluid, fibrinopurulent serosal exudates in acute appendicitis
- Fibrosis, e.g. fibrous scar (may appear greyish white)
- Fibrin, e.g. pale whitish areas in an arterial thrombus – lines of Zahn – whitish layers are platelets and fibrin
- Chalky whitish deposits – calcifications, e.g. pancreatic fat necrosis
- Fat necrosis
Nature of localised lesions
Describing localised lesions depends on the organ that you are examining.
Solid organs (e.g. liver, spleen, lung):
- Nodule – Space-occupying condensation of tissue, often rounded and well circumscribed
- Mass – Space-occupying growth, can be well circumscribed or irregular
- Cyst – A usually rounded cavity with a smooth inner lining (cysts are lined by epithelium on their luminal surfaces), containing fluid
- Cavity – A hollow space within an organ, e.g. abscess cavity
- Area of discoloration – e.g. wedge-shaped area of pallor (infarct)
Organs with an epithelial lining, with underlying layers of tissue, e.g. skin, gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder:
- Ulcer – A break in skin or mucous membrane with loss of surface tissue, disintegration and necrosis of epithelial tissue, and often pus.
- Describing an ulcer: Edges – fungating (raised fleshy irregular edges) / punched out / rounded / irregular; Base – smooth / necrotic
- Polypoid growth
- Area of discoloration: bruise, haemorrhage
Friable – Easily torn apart or crumbled (used to describe areas of necrosis or tumours)
Fleshy – Solid, dense appearing
Spongy – Full of small holes, e.g. haemangioma
Try your hand using your newfound skills. Click on the Practice! below.