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Dissection and reporting of the organs of the female genital tract
  1. M K Heatley
  1. Mark K Heatley, Department of Histopathology, St James’ University Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS9 7TF, UK

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The aim of this article is to provide as comprehensive a review as possible of the techniques in use in dissecting and sampling the major specimens encountered in gynaecological practice, whether these have originated from gynaecological oncologists or from gynaecologists who specialise in non-malignant conditions. A brief description of relevant histology is provided where considered necessary for completeness.

Where possible I have listed material in boxes rather than providing it as free text in order to save space and in the hope that these lists will double as checklists when dissecting and describing these specimens or finalising the report for the clinician. Obviously no list can be exhaustive and it goes without saying that any temptation to pigeonhole features of a given specimen into the necessarily limited series of options included should be resisted. Common tumour types (eg, adenocarcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas), and metastases, melanoma, lymphomas and leukaemias, may occur at any site and have been omitted from these checklists to save space. Finally, I have tried to avoid duplicating material provided in other classification systems unless they have interesting associated pathological feature, an obvious example being the association between clear cell carcinoma of the vagina and diethylstilboestrol (DES) exposure in utero.


It may seem odd that a paper dealing with the female genital organs should begin with an account of how lymph nodes should be handled, but it is worth describing it at this point as these specimens may be obtained either as therapeutic lymphadenectomy specimens or as part of a sampling procedure for cancers at any of the sites described below and the comments are therefore applicable to all these situations.

The TNM system specifies that ordinarily six lymph nodes are recovered from an inguinal and 10 from a pelvic lymphadenectomy, but intriguingly the …

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