Issues: The conference participants addressed the following issues: (1) reporting of equivocal diagnoses, (2) strategies to minimize the use of such diagnoses, (3) morphologic criteria, and (4) management of women with equivocal diagnoses.
Consensus position: Equivocal diagnoses should be minimized, to the extent possible, by emphasizing cytologist education and training, improved specimen collection and quality assurance monitoring of individual and laboratory diagnosis rates. Cases fulfilling criteria for other diagnostic entities should not be included in the equivocal category. Regardless of the term utilized, an equivocal diagnosis should be qualified in some manner to indicate that the diagnosis defines a patient at increased risk of a lesion, particularly for those cases which raise concern about a possible high grade lesion. Qualification of an equivocal diagnosis can also be accomplished by appending laboratory statistics of the likelihood of various clinical outcomes or recommendations for patient follow-up. In contrast to favoring a reactive process versus squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), a more rationale approach to qualification of atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance may be to separate cases equivocal for low grade SIL from those suspicious for high grade SIL. With regard to glandular lesions, the conference participants expressed unanimous support for the separation of adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS) from atypical endocervical cells of undetermined significance when sufficient criteria are present. However, the diagnosis of a precursor lesion to AIS, endocervical glandular dysplasia, was controversial. The majority of conference participants discourage the use of such terms as mild glandular dysplasia and low grade glandular dysplasia for cytologic diagnoses.
Ongoing issues: Conference participants agreed that a term reflecting diagnostic uncertainty is necessary to communicate findings that are equivocal. However, participants could not agree on the wording of such a term. Opinions differed as to: (1) use of atypical, abnormal or morphologic changes to describe cell changes, (2) whether the diagnosis should indicate a squamous or glandular origin of the cells in question when this determination can be made, and (3) the value of defining morphologic criteria for such a diagnosis. The debate over terminology, as well as morphologic criteria, is ongoing, and the readership is invited to communicate opinions to Acta Cytologica. Management of women with equivocal diagnoses varies widely from locale to locale and may differ based on how the equivocal diagnosis is qualified. Findings insufficient for the diagnosis of a high grade lesion may warrant more aggressive follow-up than cases equivocal for a low grade lesion. Where sensitivity of detection of lesions is of paramount importance, follow-up will generally consist of more frequent cytology screening or colposcopy and biopsy. However, in some countries it is considered unethical to have a high percentage of false positive diagnoses, which result in overtreatment and an unnecessary burden for women participating in cervical screening. Future studies may provide a morphologic, or perhaps molecular, basis for distinguishing true precursors of neoplasia from minor lesions of no significant clinical import; this would allow a more coherent and rational approach to diagnosis and management of women with equivocal cytologic findings.