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Cancer. 1998 Oct 25;84(5):281-8.

Small cell carcinoma of the uterine cervix: cytologic findings in 13 cases.

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Department of Pathology, Prince George Regional Hospital and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



There are few reports on the cytologic features of small cell carcinoma (SMCC) of the uterine cervix.


The clinical records, histopathology, and available cervical smears from all cases of SMCC of the uterine cervix in the files of the British Columbia Cancer Agency between 1985 and 1997 were reviewed.


Cervical smears were available from 11 of 13 identified cases. Six cases had a pretreatment smear containing numerous definitely malignant cells. In the seven cases with reported negative smears, review of the most recent smears detected a missed high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion in one case and rare suspicious epithelial cells in a second case. These two cases were considered to be false-negative smears on review. None of the six malignant smears were diagnosed as SMCC on cervical smears. These smears were reported as malignant epithelial cells, not otherwise specified in three cases and misclassified as adenocarcinoma in three cases. These malignant smears contained cells dispersed as single cells or arranged as loosely cohesive sheets or gland-like aggregates. Tumor cells, ranging from small to large, had extremely pleomorphic, angulated nuclei that were hyperchromatic and showed nuclear molding and smearing. Mitotic figures were common and karyorrhectic debris was identified in all cases.


The routine cervical smear is a relatively insensitive and nonspecific method of detecting SMCC. The specific diagnosis of SMCC on cervical smears is difficult. SMCC can mimic inflammatory cells, follicular cervicitis, endometrial cells, endocervical adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of small cell type, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and other unusual malignant neoplasms. The suspicion of SMCC on a cervical smear should prompt an urgent biopsy to establish the diagnosis and initiate prompt treatment.

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