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Cytopathology is a branch of pathology involving the study of human cells to diagnose medical conditions. Cytopathologists (informally known as pathologists) specialize in the analysis of body cells found in tissue samples extracted from biopsies. They collect and examine specimens looking for abnormalities and other potential disorders. If said abnormalities exist, a pathologist may use a set of criteria to diagnose a condition and may prescribe additional tests or screenings.
Cells are procured from the body through multiple different methods. These methods include brushings of a body part or lesion and fine needle aspiration. Fine needle aspiration, also known as FNA, is the practice of obtaining a body specimen using a thin needle syringe to puncture the skin. FNA is frequently used for the collection of cells from internal tumors or organs.
A cytopathologist may study cell samples for the following situations:
Once specimens are gathered, they are placed onto thin glass slides with a special dye for microscopic examination. Pathologists are not the only specialists capable of collecting specimens. Other physicians or dermatologists may conduct biopsies (tissue sampling) and consult a pathologist or send the sample to a cytopathology lab for evaluation.