Cellular pathology

The cellular pathology department provides a service to our hospitals and GPs in the Stockton and Hartlepool area and supports the breast, bowel and cervical screening services for a wider population including South Tees and some areas of North Yorkshire.

The department includes histology, cytology and the mortuary. The department is also responsible for reporting andrology (semen) samples.

The department is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.


Histology examines samples taken from patients in clinic or during an operation. Samples received range from small biopsies to whole organs. Consultant pathologists, biomedical scientists and laboratory support staff work together to process and analyse the sample and provide an accurate diagnostic report which is sent to the appropriate clinician or doctor.

The tissue is first examined with the naked eye to look for any visible abnormalities and to select pieces to examine in more detail. These small pieces are treated with chemicals so that very thin slices can be cut. The slices are stained to show different parts of the cells and examined under a microscope.

Some of the samples received contain tumours and microscopic examination enables determination of tumour type, whether it is benign or malignant, how far it has spread in the body and whether or not all the tumour has been removed.

Usually the pathologist is able to write a report after looking at the initial stained slides. Sometimes, however, special stains or immunocytochemistry may be required before a complete diagnosis can be made.


Cytology is the study of cells present in a range of body fluids and smeared directly onto glass slides.

Consultant pathologists, biomedical scientists and laboratory support staff, work together to process and analyse the sample; providing an accurate diagnostic report which is sent to the appropriate clinician or doctor.

Gynaecological cytology

The analysis of gynaecological samples is no longer provided at this Trust, cervical cytology samples are process and analysed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead.

Women are routinely invited to have cervical screening tests (previously called smear tests). The NHS cervical screening programme invites all women for regular tests automatically. The tests are done to prevent cervical cancer, not to diagnose cancer.

During each test a sample of cells are removed from the cervix, with a plastic brush. The cells are sent to the cytology department and processed before being examined under a microscope to look for early changes that, if ignored and not treated, could develop into cancer of the cervix.

Non-gynecological cytology

Whereas most gynaecological cytology is centred around the detection of pre-malignant disease in predominantly well women; non-gynaecological cytology is primarily concerned with providing a diagnosis in patients with suspected disease.

Non-gynaecological sampling is used as a valuable diagnostic tool. It may confirm or provide an initial diagnosis, determine the course of treatment and monitor the spread of disease.

Cells obtained from body organs (for example, thyroid or lung) and body fluids (for example, pleural fluid or voided urine) are processed, stained and examined microscopically for pathological change or infective agents. Sampling for cytology is generally safe, simple and non-invasive.


Andrology is the study of male fertility and the cellular pathology department analyses semen samples to determine fertility or to confirm sterility following male sterilisation.