Fibroadenomas with atypia: Causes of under- and overdiagnosis by aspiration biopsy

  • Simsir A
  • Waisman J
  • Cangiarella J
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Fibroadenoma (FA) is a common benign breast lesion frequently sampled by fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB). Although the cytologic diagnosis is straightforward in most cases, cellular discohesion and atypia in FAs may lead to falsely atypical or positive FNAB diagnoses. Conversely, some adenocarcinomas mimic a fibroadenomatous pattern on FNAB, resulting in a false-negative diagnosis. We reviewed the cytologic and histologic findings in 25 cases with a preoperative FNAB diagnosis of FA, wherein excision was recommended based on atypia. Our aim was to analyze the spectrum of changes causing under- or overdiagnosis in such cases. The smears were assessed for cellularity, cellular discohesion, presence of dissociated intact cells and nucleoli, nuclear pleomorphism, oval bare nuclei, and stromal fragments. The histologic findings were correlated with FNAB features. At excision, 88% of FAs classified as atypical on FNAB were benign (FA with ductal hyperplasia and lactational change, myxoid FA, and other fibroepithelial lesions). Differentiating myxoid FA from colloid carcinoma was difficult due to the abundance of extracellular mucin in which the dissociated epithelial cells were floating. Two (8%) cases were carcinomas on excision; the reasons for underdiagnosis in one case reflected sampling, and in the other, interpretative error. There was one (4%) benign phyllodes tumor which lacked stromal fragments and single stromal cells on FNAB smears. The lesion was called atypical, based on the epithelial discohesion on the smears. We conclude that the majority of FAs with atypia on FNAB are benign lesions. Considering the grave consequences of a false-positive cytologic diagnosis, we recommend a conservative approach in interpreting FNAB smears which overall display a fibroadenomatous pattern.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Atypia
  • Fibroadenoma
  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy

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  • Aylin Simsir

  • Jerry Waisman

  • Joan Cangiarella

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