Liquid based cytology (LBC) is a way of preparing cervical samples for examination in the laboratory
Cervical cancer is unusual in having a pre-invasive stage (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN), which potentially makes it almost completely preventable by screening. At present, liquid-based cytology test is a useful method for cervical cancer screening.
One of the main problems with the conventional Pap smear is that up to 80 per cent of the cells collected are not transferred from the spatula to the slide. In addition, excessive blood and mucus lead to unsatisfactory smears, necessitating recall.The principle of liquid-based cytology (LBC) is that instead of smearing the spatula across a slide, it is rinsed in a vial of preserving solution. A small plastic brush is used, because cells tend to stick to wooden implements. In the laboratory, the vial is agitated to distribute the cells evenly, then they are filtered out under pressure to produce a thin layer on a slide. One advantage of this is that the machine always takes the same number of cells.
The main advantage of liquid-based cytology (LBC) is that it greatly reduces the number of inadequate smears; Anybody who deals with women in the screening programme knows that the anxiety caused by inadequate smears is enormous and if there were no other advantages to liquid-based cytology (LBC), it would be worth introducing for this alone.
Another advantage is that liquid-based cytology (LBC) is easier to read because there are no clumps of cells and no blood or mucus obscuring the view. Screening times in the laboratory are reduced, so throughput is increased and results are made available more quickly.