Cytodiagnosis of classic lobular carcinoma and its variants

C. Leach, Lydia P Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The well-known cytologic features of lobular carcinoma traditionally consist of modest cellularity and small, atypical cells lying singly or in small groups. However, lobular carcinoma is a common pitfall in the cytodiagnosis of breast lesions. Knowledge of its varied histologic appearance can help to prevent diagnostic difficulties. Among 55 consecutive cases of breast needle aspirates with histologic follow-up, 9 lobular carcinomas were identified. The surgical material was examined for the following histologic variants: (1) classic, (2) solid, (3) alveolar, and (4) mixed; it was correlated with the cytologic findings. Pure, classic lesions were the most likely cause of false-negative diagnoses. Two of nine lobular carcinomas were diagnosed as benign due to scant cellularity and cell smallness. Four of nine were cytologically misclassified as ductal type due to more abundant cellularity and larger cells. This could be attributed to the predominant alveolar or solid patterns present in three cases. Only three of nine were accurately classified as lobular carcinoma, and all had a significant classic histologic element. Another important feature that is highly suggestive of lobular carcinoma is the presence of cytoplasmic vacuoles. They were overlooked in three of four cases. This study suggested that the traditional cytologic features of lobular carcinoma are present only in tumors with a predominantly classic histologic pattern. Awareness of the variant patterns and their cytologic features, including more abundant cellularity, larger cells and clusters, and cytoplasmic vacuoles, will aid in correct classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-202
Number of pages4
JournalActa Cytologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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