Fine-needle aspiration of gray zone lesions of the breast: Fibroadenoma versus ductal carcinoma

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While breast lesions have characteristic cytological features, some lesions, particularly adenocarcinoma and fibroadenoma, may present with overlapping features causing erroneous diagnoses. The current study aimed to define significant cytomorphologic features predictive of fibroadenoma and adenocarcinoma, respectively. Further, we intended to evaluate the predictive characteristics for differentiation between gray zone lesions and to identify root causes contributing to misdiagnoses. First, direct smears prepared from 14 histology-confirmed fibroadenomas and 14 adenocarcinomas were reviewed and characteristics of commonly encountered morphologic features were assessed. We then retrospectively and blindly reviewed nine cytohistologic discrepant cases using the significant characteristic as a guideline, in order to assess whether these discrepant cases could be correctly categorized. Morphologic characteristics predictive of fibroadenoma included moderate cellularity, large, folded cellular sheets/aggregates, staghorn projections, smooth and round borders, monolayers, honeycomb arrangement, smaller nuclear size, and background bipolar cells. Predictive characteristics of adenocarcinoma included high cellularity, loose cohesive sheets/aggregates, pointed projections, irregular borders, larger nuclear size, irregular nuclear membrane, prominent nucleoli, and single atypical epithelial cells. Retrospective, blind review correctly re-classified seven out of nine cytohistologic discrepant cases, including five false negative cases and two false positive cases. Root causes contributing to the misdiagnoses were large branching sheets of carcinoma mimicking folded sheets of fibroadenoma; fibroblasts mimicking myoepithelial cells; apocrine cells mimicking carcinoma cells; and not recognizing the loose myxoid matrix presenting as soap bubbles in fibroadenoma. In conclusion, this study identified significant characteristics that can assist in achieving accurate diagnosis in a subpopulation of breast aspirates that present with overlapping features. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2013;41:806–811. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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