Comparison of the sensitivity of sputum and brush cytology in the diagnosis of lung carcinomas

Acta Cytol. Mar-Apr 1997;41(2):399-408. doi: 10.1159/000332531.


Objective: To describe the role of sputum and brush cytology in the diagnosis of lung carcinoma and to elucidate the influence of tumor location, histologic tumor type and stage on the sensitivity of both methods.

Study design: Retrospective and performed on 415 lung cancer patients. Two hundred of them were investigated only by sputum collection, 119 only by brushing and 96 by both methods.

Results: The overall sensitivity of the sputum technique was 0.403 and that of the brush method 0.500, while a combination of both showed a sensitivity of 0.640. The diagnostic yield depended on tumor location, histologic tumor type and stage. Sputum specimens were most valuable in the detection of early and peripheral carcinomas, whereas brushing was superior in finding more advanced and centrally located malignancies. Regarding tumor type, squamous cell carcinomas were diagnosed to the greatest extent by both methods.

Conclusion: A complementary role of both cytologic techniques can be postulated by our data as well as by a literature review.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sputum / cytology*