Cytological examinations identify cells taken from smears, explore these under a microscope and classify them according to whether they are normal, abnormal or suspected to be carcinogenic. Where cells are found that are suspected to be carcinogenic, additional tissue samples are taken and examined.
Gynaecological cytology is used for the early detection of cancer in the female reproductive organs. The best known example of this is the cancer smear and the Papanicolaou test (or Pap test, for short). Since the introduction of this relatively straightforward method for detecting early-stage cancer, the number of cases of cervical cancer has fallen significantly.