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Cytology

What is cytology?

Cytology is the exam of a single cell. These cells are often found in fluid samples. Cytology is used to do the following:

  • Diagnose or screen for cancer or diseases

  • Screen for fetal abnormalities

  • Screen for pap smears

  • Diagnose infectious organisms

  • For other screening and diagnostic areas

The cells to be checked may be taken by these methods:

  • Scraping or brushing the tissue surface, such as during a pap smear

  • Collecting body fluids, such as for urine or respiratory mucus (phlegm)

  • Removing cells by drawing them through a fine needle (fine-needle aspiration), such as abdominal fluid in ascites, pleural fluid from the lungs, or cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal

  • Other types of tissue biopsy 

Cytology is different from histology. Cytology generally means looking at a single cell type. Histology is looking at an entire block of tissue. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chad Haldeman-Englert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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