Adequacy evaluation of fine-needle aspiration biopsy in the breast health clinic setting

Lydia P Howell, Regina F Gandour-Edwards, Katherine Folkins, Robin Davis, Shagufta Yasmeen, Alaa M Afify

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Breast health clinics (BHC) are an unfamiliar source of fine-needle aspiration biopsies (FNABs) in the U.S. and create challenges for adequacy evaluation. The current study described the experience with breast FNAB adequacy evaluation over a 2-year period, the issues that emerged, and the problem-solving employed to mitigate these issues. METHODS. The rate of unsatisfactory FNABs and core biopsies was determined for pathologists, BHC providers, and other clinicians and compared for two different periods. Adequacy criteria during both periods required correlation of the cytologic findings with the clinical and breast imaging findings, and did not require identification of a specific number of ductal epithelial cells. RESULTS. During the first time period, 25% of breast FNABs performed in the BHC received an inadequate evaluation versus 6% performed by pathologists and 14% performed by other clinicians. The BHC adequacy rate exceeded the 20% upper threshold recommended by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and did not decrease after additional FNAB training. During the first time period, 24% of core biopsies received an adequacy evaluation of unsatisfactory. During the second time interval, the core biopsy volume increased and 12% received an unsatisfactory adequacy evaluation. CONCLUSIONS. It is appropriate to use noncellular features such as clinical and imaging findings as adequacy criteria for breast FNABs rather than identification of a minimal number of ductal epithelial cells. However, the 20% upper threshold for unsatisfactory breast FNABs recommended by the NCI was not appropriate for the BHC setting because the nature of the lesions seen in this type of practice can lead to an increase in inadequate specimens and cause unnecessary concern regarding quality. The authors recommended that laboratories receiving a large number of clinician-performed FNABs from a community population, especially a BHC, define their own unsatisfactory threshold above which they will investigate for technical or other problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-301
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 25 2004


  • Adequacy evaluation
  • Breast core biopsy
  • Breast cytology
  • Breast fine-needle aspiration biopsy
  • Unsatisfactory rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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