Fine-needle aspiration cytology of the breast: Invasive vs. in situ carcinoma

Diagn Cytopathol. 2001 Jul;25(1):73-7. doi: 10.1002/dc.2006.


The surgical management of invasive breast carcinoma differs from that of in situ disease. Invasive carcinoma necessitates axillary lymph node dissection, a procedure that has associated morbidity. We studied 80 cases (66 invasive, 14 in situ) of breast carcinoma that had a histological diagnosis and a preoperative fine-needle aspirate. All slides were reviewed, with 17 cytologic features assessed. We found that six of these features showed a statistically significant difference between the invasive and in situ cases. These were infiltration of fat or stroma by malignant cells (72% of invasive cases demonstrated this feature, but it was not present in any of the in situ cases, P = 0.0002), the presence of myoepithelial cells overlying clusters of tumor cells (seen in 86% of in situ tumors and 7% of invasive cases, P < 0.00001), calcification (present in 71% of in situ and 15% of the invasive group, P = 0.001), foamy macrophages (noted in 64% of in situ tumors and 16% of invasive carcinomas, P = 0.0007), intracytoplasmic vacuoles (seen in 50% of invasive cases and 21% of in situ lesions, P = 0.08), and tubules (present in 30% of invasive and 7% of in situ tumors, P = 0.10). We demonstrate that invasion can be suggested in fine-needle aspirates of carcinomas, provided that true infiltration of fibrofatty connective tissue by neoplastic cells is present. In situ disease has characteristic features, but the presence of invasion cannot be excluded, even in the presence of stromal or adipose tissue fragments without tumor infiltration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / classification
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / classification
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness