Module information

Module details

Principles and Practice of Cervical Cytology and Diagnostic Cytopathology
Module code

Aim of this module

This module will provide the trainee with knowledge and understanding of cervical cytology and an overview of the role and limitations of diagnostic cytopathology. They will apply and relate this knowledge as they learn to recognise normal cells in cervical cytology preparations. They will also gain and apply knowledge of the cervical screening programme, the role of fine needle aspiration cytology and non-gynaecological cytology preparation techniques.

Work-based content


# Learning outcome Competency Action
# 1 Learning outcome 1 Competency

Receive, label and store a wide range of cytopathology specimens.

Action View
# 2 Learning outcome 2 Competency

Prepare, select and use appropriate fixative and staining solutions to a variety of tissue samples, to include:

  • Papanicolaou and May- Grünwald-Giemsa staining technique.
Action View
# 3 Learning outcome 3 Competency

Set up and use light microscopy at various magnifications levels to investigate a range of cytopathology specimens.

Action View
# 4 Learning outcome 2 Competency

Select the appropriate enzyme cytochemical techniques required to demonstrate a specific disease process using appropriate control material.

Action View
# 5 Learning outcome 2 Competency

Select the appropriate immunocytochemical techniques and antibodies to demonstrate a specific disease process using appropriate control material.

Action View
# 6 Learning outcome 4 Competency

Based on representative cervical cytology specimens, identify normal cellular appearance under the microscope and be able to recognise commonly occurring pathological features.

Action View
# 7 Learning outcome 4 Competency

Produce a basic interpretative report on cytopathology investigations

Action View
# 8 Learning outcome 1,2,3 Competency

Control infection risks in accordance with departmental protocols.

Action View
# 9 Learning outcome 1,2,3 Competency

Minimise risks and hazards in compliance with health and safety policies.

Action View


You must complete:

  • 1 case-based discussion(s)
  • 1 of the following DOPS/ OCEs:
Label and store of a wide range of cytopathology specimens DOPS
Prepare, select and use appropriate fixative solutions DOPS
Perform Haematoxylin and eosin staining technique to a variety of tissue samples DOPS
Use light microscopy at various magnifications in the investigation of a range of cytopathology specimens DOPS
Set up a microscope for Kohler illumination DOPS

Learning outcomes

  1. Receive, prepare and process specimens for cytopathological investigation.
  2. Select appropriate methods for preparation, fixation and staining.
  3. Use microscopic examination techniques on a selection of cytopathology samples.
  4. Recognise the appearance of normal and abnormal cellular patterns in Cervical Cytology.

Academic content (MSc in Clinical Science)

Important information

The academic parts of this module will be detailed and communicated to you by your university. Please contact them if you have questions regarding this module and its assessments. The module titles in your MSc may not be exactly identical to the work-based modules shown in the e-portfolio. Your modules will be aligned, however, to ensure that your academic and work-based learning are complimentary.

Learning outcomes

  1. Explain the physiology and pathophysiology of the female reproductive tract.
  2. Describe the appearance of normal and relate this to abnormal cellular patterns in cervical cytology.
  3. Discuss and evaluate the organisation and delivery of current cervical screening programmes.
  4. Describe relevant techniques for non-gynaecological cytology samples.
  5. Describe and evaluate the application of quality assurance methodologies to cytopathology.
  6. Discuss the purpose and process of preparation and interpretation of clinical diagnostic reports.
  7. Describe the partnership of cytopathology to other clinical specialisms in cytological investigation and contribution to patient care.

Indicative content

  • Overview of the cervical screening programme, including aetiology, principles of screening, coverage, and call and recall and failsafe
  • Understanding of the role and impact of Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination and testing on the cervical screening programme
  • Principles of quality assurance, including internal quality control (IQC), external quality assessment (EQA) and audit
  • The anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive tract
  • Cell patterns of normal and abnormal cervical cytology samples
  • Basic understanding of the use of information technology (IT) systems in cytology laboratories and the interface with laboratory computer systems
  • Treatment options for cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cervical cancer
  • Principles of liquid-based cytology and imaging technologies
  • The roles of staff in a cytology department: pathologists, biomedical scientists, consultant biomedical scientists (advanced practitioners), ‘checkers’, medical laboratory assistants and cytology screeners
  • Principles of non-gynaecological cytology preparation techniques
  • The advantages and limitations of fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology in the diagnosis of benign conditions and malignant disease
  • The role of immunocytochemistry and molecular techniques in gynaecological and non-gynaecological cytology

Clinical experiences

Important information

Clinical experiential learning is the range of activities trainees may undertake in order to gain the experience and evidence to demonstrate their achievement of module competencies and assessments. The list is not definitive or mandatory, but training officers should ensure, as best training practice, that trainees gain as many of these clinical experiences as possible. They should be included in training plans, and once undertaken they should support the completion of module assessments and competencies within the e-portfolio.


  • Participate in multidisciplinary review meetings at which cytopathology results are presented as part of the clinical record. Reflect and discuss in terms of the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and the importance for the patient pathway.
  • Review and discuss the application of the range of cytochemical, immunocytochemical and molecular techniques available in the training department, including application to non-gynaecological specimens.
  • Review, reflect on and discuss the operation of current cervical screening programmes, with particular reference to their importance to patient groups, to identification and prevention of disease and to the patient pathway.
  • Review and discuss the application and interpretation of quality assurance methodologies in Cytopathology.
  • Discuss with practitioners the preparation and interpretation of cytopathological reports. Reflect and report on the importance and implications of effective reporting.
  • Undertake a range of work activities that involve working in partnership between the cytopathology laboratory and other clinical specialisms in the investigation of disease. Reflect and report on the importance of this partnership approach to the patient experience of investigation, treatment and management.