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Cancer. 1999 Dec 25;87(6):359-71.

Fine-needle aspiration cytology of spindle cell lesions of the breast.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, New York University Medical Center, New York, New York 10016, USA.



Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) has been successful in diagnosing epithelial lesions of the breast. Its role in the evaluation of spindle cell and mesenchymal lesions of the breast, which include a variety of benign and malignant conditions, is less clear. This article discusses the cytologic features and differential diagnosis of these lesions, as well as the potential diagnostic pitfalls associated with them.


FNAs of the breast, in which a spindle cell or mesenchymal component was a key or dominant feature, were retrieved. Fibroadenomas without cellular stroma and typical lipomas were excluded.


Forty-six aspirates (0.87%) in a series of 5306 breast FNAs contained a significant spindle cell or mesenchymal component. The aspirates were classified into 4 categories: 1) reactive conditions, including 2 diabetic mastopathies, 3 granulation tissue specimens, and 7 granulomatous lesions; 2) benign neoplastic conditions, including 1 mammary hamartoma, 1 dermatofibroma, 1 fibromatosis, 2 granular cell tumors, 2 angiolipomas, and 7 cellular fibroadenomas; 3) low grade malignant neoplastic lesions, including 10 low grade phyllodes tumors; and 4) high grade malignant neoplastic lesions, including 1 metaplastic carcinoma with chondroid stroma, 1 pleomorphic liposarcoma, 2 malignant fibrous histiocytomas, 2 osteosarcomas, and 4 metastatic melanomas. A specific diagnosis was rendered in 38 cases (82.6%). The mammary hamartoma was diagnosed as fibrocystic changes; the dermatofibroma as benign spindle cell lesion, not otherwise specified (NOS); and the primary osteosarcoma as an atypical spindle cell proliferation, NOS. The reactive ductal epithelial cells in one of the granulomatous mastitis specimens, as well as the hyperplastic ductal epithelial cells in one of the phyllodes tumors, were interpreted as atypical ductal proliferation. The marked cytologic atypia displayed by one granular cell tumor was interpreted as low grade adenocarcinoma and the primary liposarcoma as poorly differentiated carcinoma.


Breast lesions with a significant spindle cell or mesenchymal component are rarely encountered in FNA and constitute a heterogeneous group that may pose a diagnostic dilemma. FNA should be the initial diagnostic procedure for investigating these lesions, as a specific diagnosis was rendered in the majority of cases. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol)

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