Cytology ABCDE: A Practical ABCDE Algorithm for Cytology Diagnosis



An approach to the process of undertaking cytopathology diagnosis for medical students and those who operate with cytology specimens is presented.

Material and Methods

This simple mnemonic (ABCDE) can be used as a memory aid determining the order in which cells or tissue fragments should be evaluated. When receiving a slide for diagnosis and prior to examining it under the microscope we need to make sure that it is correctly labelled and prepared (Correct) and we also need to know or gather all available information concerning the patient (A, Available Information). Once under the microscope, we check the type of cells and the adequacy of specimen (B, Body & Being Adequate). Next, by taking into consideration the cellular morphology and potentially by performing ancillary studies we proceed to answer if the cells are neoplastic or not (C, Cancer). We then either form a differential diagnosis list or we end up with our final diagnosis (D, Differential diagnosis or Diagnosis), which is followed by the writing of the report (E, Exhibit).


These sequential steps (Correct ABCDE) followed as an ad hoc procedure by most pathologists, are important in order to achieve a complete and clear diagnosis and report, which is intended to support optimal clinical practice.


This ABCDE concept is a generic standard approach which is not limited to specific specimens and can help improve both cytopathology diagnoses and the quality of the final cytopathology reports.


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Author Biographies

Christina Zioga, Theagenio Anticancer Hospital of Thessaloniki, Greece
Resident of Cytopathology
Chariklia Destouni, Theagenio Anticancer Hospital of Thessaloniki, Greece
Head of the Department of Cytopathology


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How to Cite
ZIOGA, Christina; DESTOUNI, Chariklia. Cytology ABCDE: A Practical ABCDE Algorithm for Cytology Diagnosis. Diagnostic Pathology, [S.l.], apr. 2015. ISSN 2364-4893. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 13 july 2024. doi:


Pathology; diagnosis; cytology diagnosis; cytology algorithm; diagnosis report