What is the sputum cytology test, and how is the sputum examination done?

What is the sputum cytology test?

There are several studies under way using sensitive diagnostic tests which can be done easily, accurately, and inexpensively on a large number of people, since if lung cancer is found in its earliest stages, cure is possible in many cases. One such test that has already shown some success is sputum examination. The patient is asked to cough up some sputum (material coughed up from the lungs). The sputum is examined under a microscope to see if there are cancer cells present which have been shed from the inner lining of the breathing passages. Abnormal cells in the sputum can indicate a hidden cancer too small to be seen in x-ray photographs. The tumor is then located by such techniques as flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy this is an important part of the test because the sputum examination by itself does not tell the doctor where the tumor is located in the bronchial tree.

How is the sputum cytology test done? 

You will be asked not to have anything to eat or drink except water or tea without milk. The nurse will give you a specimen jar which contains 50 percent alcohol to act as a fixative. You must cough very deeply and spit into the specimen jar. If you are unable to cough deeply enough, the doctor will order a machine to assist in getting a good specimen.


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