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Focal Features of Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid in Fine-Needle Aspiration Material Are Strongly Associated With Papillary Carcinoma at Resection

Andrew A. Renshaw MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/QDLD-FTY3-M8ED-CX6U 208-210 First published online: 1 August 2002


The cytologic features of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid in fine-needle aspiration material have been well described. The significance of finding these features in only a small population of cells is not well characterized. I reviewed the results of 28 thyroid fine-needle aspirates processed as direct smears and cell blocks in which only a small population (<20 cells) showed features of papillary carcinoma.

Papillary carcinoma was considered in 142 (8.98%) of 1,581 aspirates, and in 28 cases (1.77%), 20 cells or fewer showed features of papillary carcinoma and follow-up was available. Papillary carcinomas greater than 1 cm were identified in 11 cases (39%; 3 follicular variants), papillary carcinomas less than 1 cm were identified in 4 cases (14%), and benign lesions in the remaining 13 cases (46%). The background material (either scant or abundant benign epithelium) did not correlate significantly with the result of resection.

Identifying features of papillary carcinoma in a small population of cells in either a scant or an abundant thyroid aspirate are associated with a high rate of papillary carcinomas at resection, only a minority of which represent either the follicular variant or incidental tumors.

Key Words:
  • Thyroid
  • Papillary carcinoma
  • Cytology
  • Cytopathology
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Diagnosis
  • Criteria