Authors: Andreia Carreira, Carla Lopes. See authors.
Last edition: Pathologika, 07 November 2019
Cite this page: Carreira, A. & Lopes, C. Cytology – Cell Study – Pathology – Pathologika. Available at: (Accessed: data)
[mks_separator style=”double” height=”2″]

Cytology is the study of isolated cells and aims to detect morphological abnormalities of cells, which can be obtained by flaking superficial epithelial cells, body fluids or by needle aspiration.

Gynecological cytology

George Papanicolaou, considered the father of cytology, was born on May 13, 1883 in Greece and graduated in Medicine in 1904. He began his studies in animal gynecology and only later in humans. His research was published in 1954, including cytological changes throughout the menstrual cycle and also changes to the normal cell pattern (carcinomas and adenocarcinomas).

Since then, there has been a great evolution in cervico-vaginal cytology, aspiration cytology and exfoliative cytology.

Aspirative Cytology

Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNA) serves to remove cells from palpable nodules in organs or tissues, with the purpose of diagnose superficial and palpable lesions.
For deep lesions, wich are not palpable through the skin, recurring to imaging control is needed in order to perform FNA.
Examples: palpable breast nodules, thyroid, lymph nodes, salivary glands, soft tissue, solid cyst.

Non-Gynecological Exfoliative Cytology

It is a diagnostic method based on the observation of flaking (exfoliated) cells obtained from anatomical surfaces (naturally flaked or with the aid of instrumental pressure). Hollow organs.

Examples: urine, sputum, pleural fluid, ascites fluid, bronchial lavage, bronchoalveolar lavage, cyst content, (…).

[mks_tabs nav=”horizontal”]
[mks_tab_item title=”Advantages”]

  • fast and inexpensive method
  • Simple diagnostic method
  • minimally invasive method
  • Rapid assessment

[mks_tab_item title=”Disadvantages”]

  • The diagnosis requires confirmation by Histology
  • Interpretation made only on the basis of individual cells
  • Difficulty in identifying the exact location of the lesion as well as its limits
  • Possibility of the cells not to represent the entire lesion