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Papillary carcinoma

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Papillary carcinoma

Pure papillary carcinoma is rare in breast, although a papillary component may be present in up to 3-4% of breast carcinomas. It typically occurs in postmenopausal women.
FNA smears show three-dimensional papillary groupings of cells, some with fibro-vascular cores, with scattered columnar tumour cells and a bloody diathesis with haemosiderin-laden macrophages in the background. Nuclear atypia is often mild.

Cytological diagnostic features

  • Moderate cellularity
  • Three-dimensional papillary groups, fibro-vascular cores
  • Atypical columnar cells
  • Haemosiderin-laden macrophages

The differential diagnosis includes fibroadenoma, (favoured by the presence of finger-like branching without a fibro-vascular core and bipolar naked nuclei in the background), and papilloma. It is often very difficult to distinguish well-differentiated papillary carcinoma from benign papilloma, and surgical excision is advised when a papillary neoplasm is diagnosed by FNA cytology.