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Pathology: A Career in Medicine Brochure

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Administrator/Managing Editor
Donna Stivers
Phone: (301) 634-7200
Fax: (301) 634-7990


The cytopathologist is specially trained to examine and interpret the microscopic appearance of cells shed into fluids such as urine or pleural effusions, scraped from the uterine cervix, or aspirated from tumors with a fine needle. Some cytopathologists perform the needle aspiration procedure, especially when the tumor is palpable or identifiable by ultrasound. In other situations, the cytopathologist interprets cells obtained by image-guided aspiration of deep-seated tumors (e.g., in the lung or other organs) performed by another physician such as an interventional radiologist. Special studies, including immunohistochemical stains and molecular analyses, can be performed on cytologic specimens in many cases in order to better refine the diagnosis.

Viewing fine needle aspirate (FNA) extracted cells under the microscope. The attending pathologist and resident examine the patient and, under the pathologist's guidance, a resident obtains the specimen.
A pathologist and resident immediately analyze the cells microscopically while the patient is still in the examining room. The fine needle aspirate of the patient reveals a papillary carcinoma of the thyroid which often affects young women.