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Cytology Exam Of Sputum

Alternate Names

  • sputum cytology

Definition

A sputum cytology test can identify cancer cells in a sample of sputum coughed up from the lungs.

Who is a candidate for the test?

This test is done when a healthcare professional suspects that a person may have lung cancer.

How is the test performed?

This test is usually performed in the morning, immediately after waking up. The person is asked to rinse his or her mouth with water to prevent the sample from being heavily contaminated with saliva.
After taking several deep breaths, the person then coughs deeply. This should bring up enough of a material from deep in the lungs known as sputum. Sputum is different from saliva (spit). The sputum sample is then taken to a laboratory where it is examined with a microscope.

What is involved in preparation for the test?

The healthcare professional provides instructions on sample collection to the individual having this test. Normally, no special preparation is needed.

What do the test results mean?

Usually, sputum contains some normal cells. No cells that look like cancer should be in the sample. If cancer cells are seen, the person usually has lung cancer. The healthcare professional can then confirm the cancer and determine its stage using other tests.

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