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Cytopathology. 2004 Apr;15(2):104-8.

Benign mucocele-like lesion of the breast: how to differentiate from mucinous carcinoma before surgery.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, National Cheng Kung University Medical Center, Tainan, Taiwan.


The aim of the study was to improve the pre-operative diagnosis of mammary mucinous lesions. All mucinous lesions detected by fine needle aspiration (FNA) and confirmed by histological examination were reviewed by cytological findings, mammographic appearances and sonographic findings. Twenty aspirates had corresponding pathology, including 12 mucinous carcinomas, two mucocele-like lesions (MLL) with atypical ductal hyperplasia, three MLL with ductal hyperplasia and three simple MLL. Simple MLL and mucocele-like with ductal hyperplasia showed scant cellularity, no or rare intact single tumour cells, monolayered arrangement and absence of nuclear atypia. In contrast, most mucinous carcinomas showed higher cellularity, more single tumour cells, three-dimensional clusters, and mild to marked nuclear atypia. However, MLL with atypical ductal hyperplasia showed cytological features overlapping with mucinous carcinoma. MLL had a non-specific mammographic appearance and showed a cystic lesion on sonography. Mucinous carcinoma appeared as a solid mass on sonography and as a distinct nodule on mammography. Based on the combination of FNA cytology and image findings, benign MLL can be correctly distinguished from mucinous carcinoma before surgery.

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