Cytology consists of the examination of cells under a microscope. These cells can be obtained from liquids, blood, bone marrow or tissue. Through the microscope the obtained cells can be made visible and evaluated for anomalies. These anomalies can be an enlarged cell’s nucleus or an abnormal cell size, which can indicate the presence of a tumour.
Cytology is mostly used to examine in more detail a tissue mass or lymph node. This test is a good first step towards the diagnosis of a tumour and its type, but it is not 100% sensitive or specific. After all, it’s not possible to evaluate the tissue organization via cytology. This should be done by taking a tissue sample and performing histopathology. Cytology is very safe and causes no to minimal discomfort. Generally speaking, cytology can be done in an awake patient, although a light sedation may be required when doing a punction of internal organs or liquids in the chest or abdomen. Side effects of a punction can be light bleeding afterwards, mild bruising, or short-term limping (when this is done in the bone (marrow)). These side effects are very rare.