Sputum cytology examines a sample of sputum (mucus) under a microscope to determine whether abnormal cells are present. It may take several days to receive results from a sputum cytology.
Normal lung cells are present in the sputum sample.
Abnormal cells are present in the sputum sample. Abnormal cells may mean lung conditions such as pneumonia, inflammation, the buildup of asbestos fibers in the lungs (asbestosis), or lung cancer.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include a sample that is too small; is dried out; contains only saliva; or is from nasal secretions, not your airway.
What To Think About
There is a chance of false-negative test results with sputum cytology. This means that the test shows a lung condition is not present when it actually is present. Follow-up testing may need to be done if your symptoms continue.
A sputum culture is a test to find and identify bacteria or fungi that are infecting the lungs or breathing passages. It is also done to identify the best antibiotic to treat a lung infection. To learn more, see the topic Sputum Culture.
Bronchoscopy or a needle lung biopsy are more commonly used than sputum cytology because the results provide more information about airway problems.