Guide to Allied Health Professions: Cytotechnologist

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Cytotechnologists are highly trained laboratory specialist who study human cells and different types of cellular anomalies. These professionals examine and inspect slides containing human cells under a microscope, looking for any sign of abnormality or disease in the cell. Cell abnormalities or diseases could be by way of inflammatory processes, infectious agents or cancerous lesions. Cytotechnologists often play a critical role in helping patients recover from various illnesses by identifying a disease while it is still in the early, treatable stage.

Detailed job functions

A cytotechnologist will first obtain cell specimens from various body sites that need to be inspected, such as the lung or the female reproductive tract. These cells are then placed on slides using highly specialised techniques. The cytotechnologist will then examine the slides microscopically, looking for cellular changes that may indicate the presence of a disease. After a thorough inspection, a detailed report is then submitted to the pathologist for final inspection and evaluation.

Using the findings of these specialists, it is easier for pathologists to diagnose and treat diseases – in many cases, long before it would otherwise have been detected. For instance, recently special types of needles are being used to draw fluid from lesions that are deeply seated in the body. This has greatly enhanced the ability to find and diagnose tumours located in otherwise inaccessible sites.

As new, more advanced screening and identification techniques for cancer are being developed, cytotechnologists will continue to play an invaluable role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Working Conditions

Most cytotechnologists work in hospitals or commercial laboratories. With experience, they also may work in private industry or in teaching, research and supervisory positions. Cytotechnologists may work independently when assessing and reporting on normal cells or in close collaboration with a pathologist when investigating cells for indications of disease).

Although employment opportunities and salaries differ widely in this field, depending on experience, ability and geographic location, the demand for experienced cytotechnologists is growing tremendously and is expected to continue growing over the next couple of decades.

Academic Requirements

Anyone who would like to be able to practice as a cytotechnologist, will have to graduate from a cytotechnology program that is accredited. In general, cytotechnology programs require at least 28 credits of science, including chemistry and biology.

Although the duration of each program depends considerably on its organizational structure, most programs will span at least one year of formal instruction and training. The course of study will include:

  • Scientific method of inquiry
  • Basic laboratory techniques
  • Laboratory operations
  • Mathematics or statistics
  • Cytologic procedures/technologies
  • Screening and interpretation
  • Ancillary testing and related technologies
  • Professional development

After completing the program, graduates will have obtained the knowledge and the skills necessary to evaluate a wide variety of cytologic preparations. However, to become a certified cytotechnologist, graduates must also take a certification examination.

Cytotechnologist salary in Australia

The average salary for cytotechnologists, in Australia ranges from AU$40,695 to AU$70,470 per year.

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