Have you ever heard of a medical test called a Pap smear (Figure 4)? In this test, a doctor takes a small sample of cells from the uterine cervix of a patient and sends it to a medical lab where a cytotechnologist stains the cells and examines them for any changes that could indicate cervical cancer or a microbial infection.
Cytotechnologists (cyto– = cell) are professionals who study cells through microscopic examinations and other laboratory tests. They are trained to determine which cellular changes are within normal limits or are abnormal. Their focus is not limited to cervical cells; they study cellular specimens that come from all organs. When they notice abnormalities, they consult a pathologist, who is a medical doctor who can make a clinical diagnosis.
Cytotechnologists play vital roles in saving people’s lives. When abnormalities are discovered early, a patient’s treatment can begin sooner, which usually increases the chances of successful treatment.