Cytologic evaluation is the analysis of cells from the body under a microscope. This is done to determine what the cells look like, and how they form and function.
The test is usually used to look for cancers and precancerous changes. It may also be used to look for viral infections in cells. The test differs from a biopsy because only cells are examined, not pieces of tissue.
The Pap smear is a common cytologic evaluation that looks at cells from the cervix. Some other examples include:
- Cytology exam of fluid from the membrane around the lungs (pleural fluid)
- Cytology exam of urine
- Cytology exam of saliva mixed with mucus and other matter that is coughed up (sputum)
Cell evaluation; Cytology
Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC. Neoplasia. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2021:chap 7.
Weidmann JE, Keebler CM, Facik MS. Cytopreparatory techniques. In: Bibbo M, Wilbur DC, eds. Comprehensive Cytopathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 33.
Review Date 7/30/2021
Updated by: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Associate Professor in Medical Genetics, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.