Cytology is the study of the structure and functions of cells.
The word cytology is derived from the Greek word "kytos", which means "container".
Cells contain many parts (which are called organelles), each of which has specific functions to perform. Some types of organelles are present in all cells but generally the form and quantity of the organelles in a cell is related to the type of tissue of which the cell is a part - and the functions that tissue performs within the organism.
This is important because many medical conditions and diseases are diagnosed by the examination of cells using a microscope. The appearance the cells provides the hospital staff with information about the type of condition and its progress. This information is then used to recommend and arrange appropriate treatment to effect the soonest possible recovery for the patient.
The progress of the treatment may also be monitored using cytology, i.e. the examination of further cell samples to assess the success of the techniques, drugs, or other procedure used.
- A medical specialist in the field of cytology is called a cytologist.
- The adjective used to refer to cytology is cytological.
- The breakdown of cells (especially by destruction of their outer membranes) is called cytolysis.
Links to other relevant areas on this website include:
- Diagram of the structure of animal cells
- Page: What is Histology?
- Glossary section: Parts of cells
- Glossary section: General Medical Terms.