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Oncotic cytology: what it is, what it is for, how it is done and results

Oncotic cytology, also called preventive examination of the cervix, cervicovaginal smear or cervical oncotic colpocytology, is a gynecological examination that aims to assess the presence of changes in the cervix possibly indicative of cancer.

This exam is simple and done in the gynecologist’s office, who performs a scraping of the cervix to collect the cells from the site, which is sent to the laboratory for analysis.

According to the result of the exam, the doctor can indicate the most appropriate treatment, which may involve periodic monitoring by performing the exam regularly, performing colposcopy with biopsy to confirm the diagnosis or carrying out specific treatment for cancer of the cervix, such as conization, hysterectomy or radiotherapy, for example. See more details on cervical cancer treatment.

what is it for

The oncotic cytology exam serves to assess the cervix and make the initial diagnosis of cervical cancer, which can be influenced by HPV virus infection, prolonged use of oral contraceptives and early onset of sexual activity.

From this examination, local cells can be microscopically evaluated, making it possible to identify cell atypia and changes indicative of infection and suggestive of malignancy, thus making it possible to carry out an early diagnosis of cervical cancer.

How oncotic cytology is performed

The oncotic cytology exam is performed in the gynecologist’s office and consists of a simple, quick and painless exam, although some women may report a little discomfort during the procedure.

To perform this examination, the woman must be in the gynecological position and the physician must collect a sample of the cervix using a specific spatula, known as an Ayre spatula. To make this collection, the doctor rotates this spatula making a complete turn, so that an adequate sample can be collected. In addition, it uses a specific brush to collect a sample from the endocervical canal.

After collecting these materials, a smear is made on a slide and then the sample is fixed with alcohol to be sent to the laboratory for analysis.

It is important that before performing the oncotic cytology exam, the woman does not have sexual intercourse 48 hours before the exam, that she is not menstruating and that she has not had vaginal douche or medication for local application (vaginal).

what the results mean

The results of the oncotic cytology are released in a report which contains information regarding the characteristics of the cells observed microscopically, which can be indicated:

  • unsatisfactory sample, when the collected sample was not enough to observe the cellular characteristics, being recommended in this case the repetition of the exam;
  • negative for cancer, when there are no changes in the cervix suggestive of malignancy. In this case, it is recommended by the physician that the exam be repeated in 1 or 3 years, according to the physician’s instructions;
  • Presence of cell atypia, when changes in cells are identified, which are usually benign. In this case, it is recommended to repeat the exam after 6 or 12 months, according to the doctor’s recommendation;
  • HPV infection or low-grade lesion, when changes in the cervix are verified that are indicative of HPV virus infection, in which case it is recommended that the exam be repeated in 6 months to assess the development of the lesion and the need for treatment;
  • high grade injury, when changes that are suggestive of cervical cancer are identified. In this case, a colposcopy with biopsy is indicated to confirm the diagnosis and, thus, be able to indicate the most appropriate treatment.

It is important that the result of oncotic cytology is evaluated by the physician taking into account the woman’s age, the presence of signs or symptoms and the results of previous tests.

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