Cytologic atypia

November 28, 2023

In pathology, the term cytologic atypia describes cells that look abnormal when examined under a microscope. Cells may be described as showing cytologic atypia because of their shape, size, or colour. These changes can affect the cytoplasm (body) of the cell or the nucleus (the part of the cell that holds the genetic material).

cytologic atypia

Does cytologic atypia mean the cells are cancerous or precancerous?

Not necessarily. Cytologic atypia does not mean that the cells are cancerous or precancerous. This term is used to describe any kind of cells, including both cancerous, precancerous, and non-cancerous cells, that look abnormal compared to normal, healthy cells.

What causes this change?

Cytologic atypia can be caused by changes that start inside the cell or from factors in the environment outside of the cell. Changes inside the cell include genetic abnormalities that cause the cell to grow and develop abnormally. These kinds of changes can lead to cancer over time. Factors in the environment include inflammation, viral infections, radiation, medication-induced changes, or tissue injury as a result of trauma, stress, or decreased blood flow.

About this article

This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

Other helpful resources

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