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cytology examination of pleural fluid

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The lining of the chest cavity (pleura)

Alternative Names 
pleural fluid cytology

Pleural fluid is the fluid that surrounds the lungs and lubricates their linings. This test can help identify any cancer cells if they are present in the pleural fluid.

Who is a candidate for the test? 
This test is commonly performed when an abnormally increased amount of pleural fluid is present. It can help determine if cancer is the cause of the increased fluid.

How is the test performed? 
In this test, the skin over an area of the lungs is cleaned with an antiseptic. The area is then numbed with a local numbing medication. After the skin is numb, a thin needle is passed through the skin and into the space surrounding the lungs. A small volume of fluid is taken out. The fluid is sent to the laboratory. A microscope is then used to examine any cells that are in the fluid.

What is involved in preparation for the test? 
Normally, no preparation is required for this test.

What do the test results mean? 
No cancerous or malignant cells are usually present in pleural fluid.

If cancerous cells are found, a malignant tumour is present. This tumour could be lung cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or any other cancer that has spread to the lungs from somewhere else in the body.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne

Last Updated: 7/11/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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