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What You Need to Know About Liquid-based Cytology

What You Need to Know About Liquid-based Cytology

07:38 2nd February 2018 | LBC

Cytopathology Pathology LBC Pap Test Smear Test Cervical Cancer Screening HPV Test Physical Pelvis Examination

Cytopathology, a branch of pathology, deals with manifestations of disease at the cellular level.


Liquid-based cytology is a method of preparing samples for examination in cytopathology.


Liquid-based cytology is an alternative to the Pap test (smear test). Both form part of a cervical cancer screening that can also include an HPV test and physical pelvis examination.


The goal of a cervical screening is to

  • check for abnormal cervical cells that could be precancerous/cancerous and
  • diagnose abnormal cells and provide treatment if necessary.

Regular (as required) screening helps reduce the incidence of cervical cancer and mortality.


What Happens During Liquid-based Cytology

Like a Pap smear, Liquid-based Cytology (LBC) involves collecting (‘scraping’) a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix.


A small brush is used to collect the cells (a spatula in the case of a Pap smear). Cells from LBC remain on the head of the brush which gets broken off and placed into a small pot of liquid that goes to a lab. Cells collected during a Pap smear are transferred to a microscope slide and sent to a lab.


Once at a lab, a careful examination takes place. Once complete, results are communicated to the healthcare professional who then informs the patient. Results fall into the following categories:

  • Normal: No cell changes observed.
  • Unclear: Cells might be abnormal. Significant changes could not be confirmed which could be a sign of precancer. Abnormal cells could be connected to HPV, infection, pregnancy or life changes. A follow-up test should be recommended.
  • Abnormal: Abnormal cells do not necessarily equal cancer. More testing is needed to see whether it is, or is becoming, cancer. ‘Low-grade’ changes are usually minor while ‘high-grade’ changes are considered (more) serious.


Not all HPV strains lead to cervical (and other) cancer, however, HPV is found in 99% of cervical cancers making it the main cause of cervical cancer.


Precancer needs to be addressed. Early diagnosis helps to simplify treatment and improve outcome. When a patient has pre-cancerous cells it does not mean she has cervical cancer.



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Please get in touch if you have any questions about liquid-based cytology, cervical conditions or anything else, or if you want to book an appointment.


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