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 tests
- Diagnose infectious organisms
- Work with other screening and diagnostic areas
The cells to be examined may be taken by these methods:
Scraping or brushing the tissue surface, such as during a Pap test
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, cells from a thyroid nodule, or cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal
Doing 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.