Fine needle aspiration cytology of epithelial-myoepithelial carcinoma of salivary glands. A report of three cases

Acta Cytol. Jul-Aug 1999;43(4):675-80. doi: 10.1159/000331176.


Background: Epithelial-myoepithelial carcinoma is a rare, low grade malignant tumor of the salivary glands. Histologically, it has a biphasic cellular composition and exhibits a high degree of differentiation. The fine needle aspiration cytology of this rare tumor is rarely described in the literature.

Cases: We report the fine needle aspiration cytology of three epithelial-myoepithelial carcinomas, arising in the right parotid, left parotid and minor salivary gland of the hard palate. Cytology showed a biphasic population consisting of cells of ductal epithelial and myoepithelial origin arranged in small clusters and sheets. The myoepithelial cells had small, uniform nuclei; ample, clear cytoplasm and distinct cell borders, while the ductal epithelial cells had larger, mildly pleomorphic nuclei and scanty cytoplasm. These ductal cells tended to form tubules among background sheets of clear myoepithelial cells. This feature, if present, was an important diagnostic clue. Hyaline material surrounding cell clusters and focal adenoid cystic carcinoma-like areas with orangeophilic globules were also not uncommon.

Conclusion: While the cytologic appearance of epithelial-myoepithelial carcinoma may closely mimic that of other salivary gland tumors, such as adenoid cystic carcinoma, pleomorphic adenoma and basal cell adenoma, certain peculiar cytologic features may allow a distinction to be made on fine needle aspiration biopsy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Needle*
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology*