Fine-needle aspiration of mucin-producing thyroid tumors

Acta Cytol. 2011;55(6):549-55. doi: 10.1159/000333228. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


Objective: Mucin-producing thyroid tumors are extremely rare. Nonetheless, we have encountered three such cases in fine-needle aspiration. We report the cytologic and histologic findings and review the literature.

Study design: Cytologic features were studied on direct smears using Romanovsky stain to detect background substance and Papanicolaou stain to analyze nuclear and cytoplasmic features. The cytologic features were correlated with histology. Mucin was demonstrated by mucicarmine, Alcian Blue/PAS, and Alcian Blue (pH 2.5).

Results: The cytologic features related to mucin include: (1) thick luminal mucin globules and signet ring cells aspirated from an 83-year-old woman with a 3-cm signet ring cell follicular adenoma, (2) abundant fluffy mucin containing signet ring cells in cohesive fragments aspirated from a 75-year-old man with the bilateral signet ring cell follicular variant of papillary carcinoma, which is the first case in the English literature, and (3) abundant thin mucoid mucin aspirated from the lymph node of an 86-year-old woman with a 5-cm mucinous poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma.

Conclusion: The occurrence of mucin in thyroid fine-needle aspiration does not necessarily indicate metastasis, and the presence of mucin in cervical lymph nodes does not exclude the thyroid gland as a possible primary.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / pathology*
  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary
  • Carcinoma, Signet Ring Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Signet Ring Cell / pathology*
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mucins / analysis*
  • Mucins / biosynthesis
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Mucins