A pathology test is a way for doctors to check out what’s going on inside your body. These tests can reveal everything from cholesterol levels to the presence of infections, helping healthcare providers tailor the best treatment plans for you.
It involves sending off a sample, maybe your blood, urine, faeces, or even a swab, to a laboratory. There, healthcare professionals, known as pathologists, will analyse your sample. They use these to:
- diagnose health conditions
- monitor abnormalities in your organ functions
- detect potential diseases
So, in a nutshell, pathology tests are essential in getting a clearer picture of your health and letting doctors find the best way to look after you.
Why You May Need a Pathology Test
As mentioned, pathology tests are key to managing your health more effectively. There are a variety of reasons why your doctor may request a pathology test for you, such as:
- Health assessment: These tests shed light on critical markers, such as cholesterol, glucose levels, and liver function.
- Diagnosing symptoms: If symptoms arise, pathology tests can identify the root cause, from infections to thyroid imbalances.
- Overseeing chronic conditions: For ongoing health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease, regular testing monitors your status and the impact of treatments.
- Tailoring treatment plans: Before starting any new medication or therapy, tests can determine the suitability and potential effectiveness for your specific situation.
- Preventive care: Screening tests, including pap smears and full blood counts, are crucial for catching early signs of conditions, potentially reducing the risk of disease progression.
- Insurance purposes: Some insurance companies may require certain pathology tests for claims.
How Pathology Testing Works
Though there are various reasons why pathology tests are done, the testing process itself is pretty straightforward. Here’s how pathology testing typically works in Australia:
- Step 1: Your issues a pathology request. This could be for a range of reasons, from checking your cholesterol to investigating symptoms.
- Step 2: Sample collection. You visit a pathology collection centre where a healthcare professional, often a phlebotomist, collects the sample needed. This could be a tissue sample or body fluids like blood, urine, or saliva.
- Step 3: Sent to the lab. Your sample heads to a pathology laboratory where pathologists and their team get to work. They use special equipment to analyse the sample and look for clues about your health.
- Step 4: Analysing your sample. Whether it’s checking for antibodies, monitoring glucose levels, or looking at red blood cells, the lab tests your sample for specific markers related to your health concerns.
- Step 5: The results. Once the analysis is done, the results are sent back to our clinic. Once you have a follow up consult, the doctor will look at what’s been found, like any abnormalities or signs of medical conditions, and discuss the next steps with you.
Do I Need a Referral to Get a Pathology Test in Australia?
In most cases, yes, you will need a referral to get a pathology test. Some laboratories may conduct certain pathology tests if the patient “self-refers”. However, these tests are very limited. Most laboratories will require a referral from a qualified health practitioner because:
- pathology tests are pretty expensive, so it’s crucial that the type of tests you’ll undergo match your needs
- you’ll often need a doctor to interpret the results since they can be very complex and involve lots of medical terminologies
- referrals are required for Medicare coverage
No time to go to a clinic for pathology referrals? No worries. With Instant Consult, you can get a pathology referral right from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are in Australia. Just book a quick video consultation with one of our AHPRA-accredited Australian doctors, and if they deem it necessary, you’ll get your referral right after the consultation.
Forget about driving to the clinic or getting stuck in the waiting room for hours. Instant Consult makes it easier and more convenient to get pathology referrals so you can get the diagnosis and treatments you need as soon as possible.
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Are you too ill to come into work and need to give your boss a medical certificate? With Instant Consult you can chat with a doctor and get a medical certificate sent directly to your app’s inbox, all without getting out of bed!
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If you have a medical condition that needs treatment from a specialist, one of our GP’s can send a digital referral straight to your app’s inbox.
If you need a blood cell count or to check for STDs/STIs or need any other kind of bloodwork you can easily get a pathology request sent to your inbox by any of our fully licensed online GPs. You can then take the request to the clinic of your choice.
If you require any special kind of diagnostic imaging such as a CAT scan or an MRI you can get a request from one of our online GPs which you can then take to your preferred provider.
The Most Common Pathology and Blood Tests
There are many different types of pathology tests, each serving a different purpose. Some of the most common ones are:
- Full Blood Count (FBC): This test checks the levels of different blood cells in your body. It’s crucial for identifying conditions like anaemia or infections.
- Liver Function Tests: These tests assess how well your liver is working by measuring enzymes, proteins, and substances in your blood.
- Cholesterol Test: It measures the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, which is important for assessing heart disease risk.
- Glucose Tests: Used to diagnose and monitor diabetes, these tests measure the sugar levels in your blood.
- Thyroid Function Tests: These tests evaluate how your thyroid is performing by measuring thyroid hormone levels in your blood.
- Coagulation Tests: Important for people taking blood thinners, these tests check how well your blood clots.
- Electrolyte Tests: These measure the levels of essential minerals in your blood, like sodium and potassium.
- Kidney Function Tests: Assess the health of your kidneys by measuring substances like creatinine and urea in your blood.
- Biopsy: A procedure where a small sample of tissue is taken to examine for signs of diseases, such as cancer, under a microscope.
- Genetic Testing: This involves analysing your DNA to identify genetic disorders, predispositions to certain diseases, and personal traits.
How to Prepare For a Pathology Test
Getting ready for a pathology test doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here’s what you need to know to make sure everything goes smoothly:
- Follow fasting instructions: Some tests, like glucose or cholesterol tests, may require you to fast. This usually means no food or drink, except water, for 8-12 hours before the test.
- Check medication rules: Ask your doctor if you should take your regular medications before the test. Some tests might be affected by certain medications.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking water is okay for most tests, even when fasting. It can even make it easier to draw blood.
- Wear comfortable clothes: Choose an outfit with easy access to your arm if you’re having a blood test.
- Bring your referral: Don’t forget the referral form from your doctor. You’ll need this for the test.
- Know your schedule: Some tests might require you to adjust your schedule, like coming in early for fasting tests or waiting for a specific time for tests that monitor medication levels.
Getting Your Pathology Test Results
Waiting for pathology test results can feel like a big deal, but understanding the process can ease some of that tension.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you cannot get a copy of your test results directly from the laboratory. Your results come straight to us to make sure they’re read and explained correctly.
We will send you an SMS, email, or app notification when they’re in. Once you’re notified, you have to book another video consultation. Our doctors will go over your results, break down what they mean, and discuss your next steps.
If you prefer, you can also ask during your initial consultation to have the results sent to your regular GP instead. Or you can ask the reception of the regular GP to contact the pathology clinic you attended and have it sent to them.
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