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Clin Lab Med. 1995 Sep;15(3):705-26.

Fine-needle aspiration cytology of the ovary.

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Department of Pathology, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida, USA.


FNA cytology has been shown to be highly accurate in diagnosing malignant tumors. In gynecology, an overall accuracy of 94.5% in the differentiation between benign and malignant tumors has been reported. Despite many controversial views regarding its safety, aspiration cytology has been accepted as an innocuous procedure that can be accomplished with minimal discomfort or complications and, in association with laparoscopy, assist in the management of ovarian cysts and masses. Although FNA cannot be considered the first-hand diagnostic procedure for ovarian cancer in postmenopausal patients, it may be extremely helpful in young women, even during pregnancy, to safely differentiate functional and other benign ovarian cysts from malignant ones. In postmenopausal women, especially those in the high risk group for surgical procedures and those undergoing a "second look" intervention following radiation or chemotherapy, aspiration cytology may provide sufficient information to warrant abandoning unnecessary surgery. During laparotomy for suspected unilateral disease, FNA may provide sufficient data about the opposite ovary to allow that organ to remain in place, thus preserving its function in a young patient. The pathologist must be familiar with the cytology of normal pelvic structures and the diagnostic criteria used to differentiate benign from malignant lesions, as well as potential diagnostic pitfalls, such as interpretation based on very few cells or the absence of appropriate clinical information. Although proper classification of ovarian masses can be achieved through FNA, the pathologist should be aware of its limitations, such as difficulties in differentiating adenomas from non-neoplastic cysts, and tumors of low malignant potential from well-differentiated carcinomas. Descriptive histologic terminology should be applied, and terms such as "suspicious" or "atypical" avoided. The aspirated material may not only be used for the diagnosis and classification of ovarian neoplasms, it may also be used for DNA analysis, detection of estrogen receptors and other prognostic markers, thus providing information regarding biologic behavior of the tumors. Finally, it is hoped that aspiration of ovarian lesions routinely detected by sonography, in elderly women or those with a strong family history of ovarian cancer, will allow the physician to accomplish detection of early ovarian cancer.

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