Fine-needle aspiration of clinically suspicious palpable breast masses with histopathologic correlation

Reshma Ariga*, Kenneth Bloom, Vijaya B. Reddy, Larry Kluskens, Darius Francescatti, Kambiz Dowlat, Popi Siziopikou, Paolo Gattuso

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this study was to compare the diagnostic accuracy of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) of clinically suspicious palpable breast masses in women younger and older than 40 years of age. Methods: All women who had FNA biopsy with subsequent tissue biopsy were included. The cytologic diagnoses were classified into three groups: malignant, suspicious, or benign. Histopathologic correlation was based on either a needle core biopsy, an excisional biopsy, or a mastectomy specimen. Results: A total of 1,158 fine-needle aspirations performed between 1982 and 2000, on women being evaluated for a clinically palpable breast mass were included in the study. The patients were divided into two groups: group I consisted of 231 patients aged 40 years and younger, and group II consisted of 927 patients aged 41 years and older. In group I there were 117 (51%) malignant FNA diagnoses, and only 1 (1%) false-positive case, subsequently diagnosed on histopathologic material as an atypical papillomatosis. There were 20 (9%) cases diagnosed as suspicious on FNA. On histopathology 10 were malignant, and 10 were benign. Of the 91 (39%) cases interpreted as benign, only 1 (1%) was a false negative. In group II, which comprised 927 patients, there were 693 (74%) malignant FNA diagnoses, and 3 (less than 1%) false-positive cases, which on follow-up histopathologic examination revealed 2 atypical ductal hyperplasias and 1 atypical papilloma. There were 90 (10%) cases diagnosed as suspicious on FNA. On histopathology, 68 were malignant and 22 were benign. Of the 131 (14%) lesions interpreted as benign, there were 18 false-negative cases (14%), which included 17 infiltrating carcinomas and 1 ductal carcinoma in-situ. Twelve (1%) of the cases were inadequate for the study. Conclusions: The sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive values were remarkably high and comparable in both groups: group I had 99% sensitivity, 99% positive predictive value, 99% specificity, and 99% negative predictive value; and group II had 98% sensitivity, 97% specificity, 99% positive predictive value, and 86% negative predictive value. The overall rate of false-positive (less than 1%) and false-negative cases (9%) is comparable with published literature. Suspicious cases should be further evaluated, as our study revealed more than 50% to be malignant. The incidence of malignancy in patients presenting with a clinically palpable breast mass with follow-up biopsy was 51% in patients aged 40 years and younger and 74% in patients aged 41 years and older. Fine-needle aspiration is an excellent diagnostic tool in assessing clinically palpable breast masses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-413
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican journal of surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy
  • Histopathologic correlation
  • Palpable breast mass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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