A cytologist is a specialist in cytology, an area of biology that deals with the study of the structure, function, multiplication, life history, problems, diseases, and chemistry of the cell. A cell is the smallest, most basic unit of life, that is capable of existing by itself. Cytologists work closely with pathologists (who supervise them) to analyze cells for abnormalities, often to assess for cancer or pre-cancerous stages. Pathologists are doctors who interpret and diagnose the changes caused by disease in tissues and body fluids. Cancer is any of a large group of malignant diseases characterized by an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of new cells in one of the body organs or tissues.
Cytologists generally work in laboratories and do not have much contact, if any, with actual patients. Many cytologists work is hospital laboratories, research laboratories, or private laboratories. In the U.S., certificates in cytotechnology are awarded via a Bachelorís degree and/or a Masterís degree. Some states require cytologists to also be licensed. Cytologists need to have good visual skills due to the types of visual analyses they need to do when studying samples under the microscope. Cytologist comes from the Greek word "kytos" meaning "a hollow (empty) cell," and the Greek word "logos" meaning "study." Put the two words together and you have "study (of) hollow cell(s)."