Cytologic evaluation is the analysis under a microscope of cells collected from a part of the body. 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 in that 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:
Stricker TP, Kumar V. Neoplasia. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 7.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.