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Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
Diagnostic terminology 1.doc
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  • 1. Tarik M. Elsheikh, MD Director of Cytology PA Labs, LLC Ball Memorial Hospital Muncie, IN. Follicular Lesions of the Thyroid: Classification and Criteria Introduction Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNA) of the thyroid gland is primarily a “screening test”, but is also diagnostic in many conditions. Its main priority is not to miss too many cancers. High sensitivity, therefore, coupled with low false negative results is what most pathologists and clinicians stride towards achieving. Surgery for benign disease is well accepted by clinicians, as they understand that a major role of FNA is to provide a relative risk of malignancy, for the clinician and patient, on which they can base their management decision upon, i.e. surgery vs. watching.1 I will discuss, in this presentation, the differential diagnosis of follicular lesions, cytologic criteria, terminology recently suggested by the Papanicolaou society, classification, and clinical implications of various diagnostic entities. Follicular lesions Follicular lesions of the thyroid represent the most problematic area of thyroid FNA. The major entities included in the differential diagnosis are hyperplastic /adenomatoid nodule, follicular neoplasm (adenoma and carcinoma), and follicular variant of PTC. Table 1: Differential diagnosis of Follicular lesions • Hyperplastic/adenomatoid nodule • Follicular Neoplasm – Follicular adenoma – Follicular carcinoma • Follicular variant of Papillary carcinoma In general, smears containing abundant colloid and few cells are more likely to be benign (zone I), whereas markedly cellular aspirates with scant or absent colloid are more likely to be neoplastic (zone II) [figure modified from Demay. Art & Science of Cytopathology, 1996]. Elsheikh- 1
  • 2. Nodular Follicular Goitre Cellular Nodule Neoplasm II I III Colloid Cells Some aspirates, however will show features that fall in the middle, sometimes refered to as the grey zone (zone II), i.e. moderate amount of colloid and moderate cellularity, and may be difficult to classify as either benign or neoplastic. Interobserver variability Several studies have examined the agreement in distinguishing follicular neoplasm (FN) from cellular hyperplastic nodule.2-4 Areas of greatest debate and confusion included the terminology and criteria employed in diagnosing FN. Differences in terminology involve mainly the use of 2 diagnostic categories (i.e. follicular lesion and FN) versus one category. Criteria for the diagnosis of FN varied from strict to none other than cellularity. For example, the proportion of microfollicles needed to establish a FN diagnosis varied from none to predominant. There was no clear definition of how cellular an aspirate needed to be in order to be classified as “hypercellular”. There were also major disagreements in recognizing colloid, especially when it had a watery-thin appearance. Hyper plastic nodule Hyper plastic nodule (HN) is characterized by the presence of abundant colloid and variable number of follicular cells. Often there is evidence of oncocytic metaplasia and degenerative changes including macrophages and old blood. The follicular cells are predominately arranged in flat sheets with a honeycomb configuration. The presence of few microfollicular structures is accepted. Occasionally, large balls and microtissue fragments are present, especially when larger gauge needles are used. The nuclei are uniform in appearance and approximate the size of RBC’s. They show finely granular chromatin with rare small nucleoli. There is minimal nuclear overlapping and crowding. Colloid, when dense, is easy to recognize. It has a dark blue-violet-magenta appearance on Diff Quik stain, while stains dark green-orange with Papanicolaou (figure). Thin colloid has a blue-violet appearance on DQ, and light green-orange appearance on Pap stains. It often shows cracks and folds imparting a “thin membrane” or a “crazy pavement” look. Thin colloid, however, maybe difficult to recognize in Papanicolaou stained specimens and bloody specimens, where it can be easily confused with serum. It may also disappear completely in thin-layer preparations.5 Elsheikh- 2
  • 3. Follicular neoplasm Using specific cytologic criteria, Kini et al. reported a 75% accuracy rate in the diagnosis of follicular carcinoma (FC)6 Most other studies, however, could not reproduce such accuracy.7 In our opinion, and those of most experts in the cytology field, FNA can not distinguish between follicular adenoma and follicular carcinoma. Histologic confirmation is needed in such cases in order to demonstrate the presence of capsular and /or vascular space invasion. There are, however, several cytologic features reported to be associated with increased cancer risk (40-60% cancer risk). These features include an increased nuclear size (at least twice the size of RBC), marked nuclear atypia including significant nuclear pleomorphism and irregularity, significant nuclear overlapping, and predominance of microfollicular structures (involving > 75% of thyroid clusters).4, 8-11 It is important to emphasize, however, that the mere presence of microfollicles is not equated with neoplasia. In fact, studies have shown that microfollicles associated with no atypia had a low cancer risk (6%), and that microfollicles lacking nuclear overlap and mixed with abundant colloid had a 0% chance of harboring cancer. From review of the literature, our proposed cytologic criteria for a specific diagnosis of follicular neoplasm include high cellularity and scant colloid. In addition, there is prominent microfollicular and/or syncytial arrangement, involving greater than 50-75% of the cellular groups. There is prominent nuclear overlapping and crowding of the follicular cells with noticeable uniform appearance. Significant nuclear atypia may or may not be present, and includes nuclear enlargement that is greater than twice the size of RBC, coarse and clumped chromatin and prominent enlarged nucleoli. Challenges in the diagnosis of Hyperplastic/Adenomatoid nodule (HN) Clearly, one of the most difficult problems in thyroid cytology is distinguishing HN with little colloid from FN with some colloid.12 As previously mentioned, the mere presence of microfollicles is not diagnostic of FN, as microfollicles may be focally seen in 5-10% of HN. Up to 30% of HN’s are highly cellular, while 15-20% of cases show scant colloid. Although degenerative changes are often associated with HN, they may be found in up to 30% of FN. A definitive diagnosis of HN should not be made in the absence of colloid.1, 12-14 Challenges in the diagnosis of Follicular Neoplasm Low cellularity may be encountered in aspirates of FN due to poor biopsy technique, or due to macrofollicular architecture, yielding prominent colloid and scant follicular cells. Some FN may also be highly vascular, yielding abundant blood with rare follicular groups showing prominent nuclear overlapping and/or microfollicular structures.4 PSC Approach to Grey Zone and Terminology Although the terms “Follicular Lesion” and “Follicular Neoplasm” are used interchangeably by some authors, we do not consider them synonymous. According to literature review, lesions categorized as “indeterminate” account for 5 to 42% of FNA diagnoses. We do not recommend the use of “Indeterminate” as a stand alone diagnosis, as its meaning has not been standardized, and may be interpreted in different ways. “Indeterminate” has been used by different authors and institutions to refer to a variety of diagnoses including FN, follicular lesion, suspicious for malignancy, and atypia not otherwise specified. Redman et al. surveyed 133 clinicians (Endocrinologists, Surgeons, Elsheikh- 3
  • 4. Thyroid specialists), in order to determine the implications of FNA diagnoses on management options.15 Clinicians opted for repeat FNA in 98% of the responses, when the cytologic terminology was “Non-diagnostic”. “Suspicious” diagnoses elicited a 96% surgical excision response. Clinicians, on the other hand, chose repeat FNA (58%) and surgery (32%) for “Indeterminate” diagnoses. They selected repeat FNA (37%) and surgery (52%) for “Atypical” designations.15 This study clearly demonstrated that confusion arose with “Atypical” and “Indeterminate” diagnoses. “Indeterminate” was confused with “non-diagnostic” in some cases, and “Atypical” was too ambiguous and treated as “Suspicious” in many cases. The majority of clinicians, on the other hand, correctly interpreted “Non-diagnostic” and “Suspicious” diagnoses. Follicular Lesions and Terminology Two European studies found no malignancies on followup of FNA’s diagnosed as FL and FN. 16 17 The authors advocated a less aggressive approach to management, i.e. clinical followup. FN, however, was loosely defined in these studies as hypercellular smears associated with scant colloid, and presence of microfollicles. There was no mention of percentage of microfollicle formation, nuclear features of follicular cells, or other architectural patterns. Permissiveness in applying strict criteria to the diagnosis of FN can lead to significant reduction of malignancy rate on followup. Cytologic features such as architecture and nuclear atypia, in addition to colloid and cellularity, should be incorporated into our criteria, in order to better define and classify those lesions falling in the grey zone. The utilization of more strict criteria can help “shrink” the grey zone further, resulting in less number of cases classified as “indeterminate”. Cellular lesion can not rule out FN In USCAP 2006, the Papanicolaou Society of cytopathology introduced the terminology of “Cellular lesion can not rule out FN”, in dealing with lesions falling in the grey zone. This terminology was chosen in order to stay away from the confusing terms of follicular lesion, indeterminate, atypical, etc. This designation is employed when the major differential diagnosis is hyperplasic nodule vs. FN. These aspirates are often highly cellular with scant colloid. There is admixture of flat sheets and microfollicles/syncytial fragments. Minimal nuclear overlapping and crowding may be present. This diagnosis is also rendered when smears from different passes show mixed cytologic findings ranging from “benign” to “possible FN”. Bloody specimens of low cellularity, but containing microfollicles and prominent nuclear overlap (highly vascular lesions) would also be included in this category. Follicular variant of papillary carcinoma (FVPC) These aspirates mainly display branching monolayered sheets, which is considered to be a significant low power discriminating feature from follicular neoplasms.18 Occasionally, there is predominance of microfollicles similar to follicular neoplasm, but appreciation of the nuclear features of PTC will usually establish the diagnosis of FVPC in most cases. Not infrequently, FVPC may show abundant colloid or paucity of nuclear features of PTC, leading to a false negative diagnosis of benign thyroid disease or follicular neoplasm. As a matter of fact, FVPC is only second to sampling error as the most common cause of false negative diagnoses in thyroid FNA. Wu et al. reported 11 false Elsheikh- 4
  • 5. negative cases of FVPC, where 6 cases were attributed to sampling error (micropapillary carcinoma), and 5 cases showed focal atypia in a background of abundant colloid and cystic change.19 Suspicious for PTC We issue a diagnosis of “suspicious for PTC” when focal nuclear features of PTC, such as focal nuclear grooves associated with nuclear enlargement and powdery chromatin, are appreciated in an aspirate. The combination of flat syncytial sheets, nuclear enlargement, and fine powdery chromatin, was found to be the most sensitive, whereas the combination of nuclear enlargement, fine chromatin and nuclear grooves was found to be the most specific, in establishing the diagnosis of FVPC.20 Intranuclear psuedoinclusions are seen in less than half of FVPC cases.20 It is important to recognize “suspicious for PTC” as a distinct category, and not to lump it with other” indeterminate” or “follicular neoplasm” diagnoses, because of its substantially greater association with malignancy on surgical followup. Logani et al. and Wu et al. reported cancer followup rates of 77% and 75%, respectively, when rendering such diagnoses.20, 21 This is in contrast to the cancer followup rate of 10-30% typically associated with indeterminate or follicular neoplasm diagnoses. With such an increased risk of malignancy, clinicians and patients may consider total thyroidectomy as another option, in place of lobectomy. Another management choice includes lobectomy with intra-operative consult, which has been shown to be helpful in additional 30% of cases.22 Suspicious for malignancy We use this category when the cytologic features are suggestive of a specific malignancy, but a definitive diagnosis can not be rendered. A definitive diagnosis of malignancy is often not rendered in these cases due to quantitative reasons ( i.e. malignant appearing cells, but limited cellularity) or qualitative reasons (i.e. focal or less than well developed features of malignancy, or an atypical lymphoid population). The most commonly encountered example of this diagnostic category is “suspicious for PTC”. Diagnostic categories (as proposed by PSC) 1. Unsatisfactory 2. Benign, non-neoplastic 3. Cellular lesion, can not rule out follicular neoplasm 4. Follicular Neoplasm 5. Suspicious for malignancy 6. Malignant. Clinical implications The majority (70-80%) of FNA’s classified as FN, are neoplastic on histologic followup. Using strict cytologic criteria, diagnoses of “FN” and “cellular nodule can not rule out FN” show cancer on histologic followup in 30% and 10% of cases, respectively. Using permissive criteria, however, and when FN and indeterminate diagnoses are combined, cancer is found in 20% of the cases. It is important, therefore, to separate FN as a distinct category from cellular hyperplastic nodule or other indeterminate follicular lesions. Most clinicians will recommend excision for FN, and accept the fact that the cytologic Elsheikh- 5
  • 6. diagnosis is probabilistic and may be benign on followup. 22-25 Clinical followup or repeat FNA is recommended for those cases classified as “cellular nodule can not rule out FN”. Assessment of probability of finding cancer on followup thyroidectomies Wu et al Examined 401 FNA’s with followup surgical excision, and calculated the cancer rates and risks associated with various cytologic diagnoses. Providing this data to clinicians and patients may be extremely helpful in deciding on management options. FNA Diagnosis Cancer Rate Cancer Risk* Benign non-neoplastic 3% -- Cellular lesion, R/O FN 14 % 5X Follicular neoplasm 33 % 11 X Suspicious 56 % 20 X Malignant 100 % Inadequate/unsatisfactory 12 % Cancer risk is compared to benign NN diagnosis Thyroid FNA Diagnosis and management options Diagnosis Management options Benign Followup Cellular lesion, R/O FN Followup or repeat FNA Neoplasm Excision / Lobectomy Suspicious Excision Malignant Excision Unsatisfactory Repeat FNA (US) Summary Thyroid FNA is primarily a screening tool, therefore, a conclusive diagnosis is not always required. A cytologist’s role is to minimize the number of indeterminate diagnoses without yielding unacceptable false negative and false positive rates. FNA can assign diagnostic probabilities that can help guide patient management in many cases. Although the utilization of these “diagnostic categories” is encouraged, they should not be used alone. Diagnoses should be qualified, when applicable, with an appropriate differential diagnosis. Individual centers should monitor their own diagnostic accuracy and cancer risks, and provide these data to their clinicians, to help guide their management. Recommendations for followup may be included in the report, if acceptable Elsheikh- 6
  • 7. to clinicians. The use of the term “Atypical” or “Indeterminate” as a stand alone diagnosis is not recommended. Their meanings are not standardized and may be interpreted in different ways. Close cooperation between pathologists and clinicians is essential, so that the terminology used in the report and its clinical implications are clearly defined. References 1. Geisinger K. Modern Cytopathology. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Churchill Livingstone, 2004. 2. Clary KM, Condel JL, Liu Y, Johnson DR, Grzybicki DM, Raab SS. Interobserver variability in the fine needle aspiration biopsy diagnosis of follicular lesions of the thyroid gland. Acta Cytol 2005;49(4):378-82. 3. Stelow EB, Bardales RH, Crary GS, Gulbahce HE, Stanley MW, Savik K, et al. Interobserver variability in thyroid fine-needle aspiration interpretation of lesions showing predominantly colloid and follicular groups. Am J Clin Pathol 2005;124(2):239-44. 4. Yang GC, Liebeskind D, Messina AV. Should cytopathologists stop reporting follicular neoplasms on fine-needle aspiration of the thyroid? Cancer 2003;99(2):69-74. 5. Biscotti CV, Hollow JA, Toddy SM, Easley KA. ThinPrep versus conventional smear cytologic preparations in the analysis of thyroid fine-needle aspiration specimens. Am J Clin Pathol 1995;104(2):150-3. 6. Kini SR, Miller JM, Hamburger JI, Smith-Purslow MJ. Cytopathology of follicular lesions of the thyroid gland. Diagn Cytopathol 1985;1(2):123-32. 7. Rout P, Shariff S. Diagnostic value of qualitative and quantitative variables in thyroid lesions. Cytopathology 1999;10(3):171-9. 8. Barbaro D, Simi U, Lopane P, Pallini S, Orsini P, Piazza F, et al. Thyroid nodules with microfollicular findings reported on fine-needle aspiration: invariably surgical treatment? Endocr Pract 2001;7(5):352-7. 9. Ersoz C, Firat P, Uguz A, Kuzey GM. Fine-needle aspiration cytology of solitary thyroid nodules: how far can we go in rendering differential cytologic diagnoses? Cancer 2004;102(5):302-7. 10. Goldstein RE, Netterville JL, Burkey B, Johnson JE. Implications of follicular neoplasms, atypia, and lesions suspicious for malignancy diagnosed by fine-needle aspiration of thyroid nodules. Ann Surg 2002;235(5):656-62; discussion 62-4. 11. Kellman A. Thyroid cytology. Thyroid 2001;11:271-77. 12. DeMay RM. The art and science of cytopathology. Chicago: ASCP Press, 1996. 13. Harach HR, Saravia Day E, Zusman SB. Occult papillary microcarcinoma of the thyroid--a potential pitfall of fine needle aspiration cytology? J Clin Pathol 1991;44(3):205-7. 14. Basu D, Jayaram G. A logistic model for thyroid lesions. Diagn Cytopathol 1992;8(1):23-7. 15. Redman R, Yoder BJ, Massoll NA. Perceptions of diagnostic terminology and cytopathologic reporting of fine-needle aspiration biopsies of thyroid nodules: a survey of clinicians and pathologists. Thyroid 2006;16(10):1003-8. Elsheikh- 7
  • 8. 16. Piromalli D, Martelli G, Del Prato I, Collini P, Pilotti S. The role of fine needle aspiration in the diagnosis of thyroid nodules: analysis of 795 consecutive cases. J Surg Oncol 1992;50(4):247-50. 17. Foppiani L, Tancredi M, Ansaldo GL, Ceppa P, Auriati L, Torre GC, et al. Absence of histological malignancy in a patient cohort with follicular lesions on fine- needle aspiration. J Endocrinol Invest 2003;26(1):29-34. 18. Fulciniti F, Benincasa G, Vetrani A, Palombini L. Follicular variant of papillary carcinoma: cytologic findings on FNAB samples-experience with 16 cases. Diagn Cytopathol 2001;25(2):86-93. 19. Wu HH, Jones JN, Osman J. Fine-needle aspiration cytology of the thyroid: ten years experience in a community teaching hospital. Diagn Cytopathol 2006;34(2):93-6. 20. Wu HH, Jones JN, Grzybicki DM, Elsheikh TM. Sensitive cytologic criteria for the identification of follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma in fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Diagn Cytopathol 2003;29(5):262-6. 21. Logani S, Osei SY, LiVolsi VA, Baloch ZW. Fine-needle aspiration of follicular variant of papillary carcinoma in a hyperfunctioning thyroid nodule. Diagn Cytopathol 2001;25(1):80-1. 22. Baloch ZW, Fleisher S, LiVolsi VA, Gupta PK. Diagnosis of "follicular neoplasm": a gray zone in thyroid fine-needle aspiration cytology. Diagn Cytopathol 2002;26(1):41-4. 23. Greaves TS, Olvera M, Florentine BD, Raza AS, Cobb CJ, Tsao-Wei DD, et al. Follicular lesions of thyroid: a 5-year fine-needle aspiration experience. Cancer 2000;90(6):335-41. 24. Hamberger B, Gharib H, Melton LJ, 3rd, Goellner JR, Zinsmeister AR. Fine- needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules. Impact on thyroid practice and cost of care. Am J Med 1982;73(3):381-4. 25. La Rosa GL, Belfiore A, Giuffrida D, Sicurella C, Ippolito O, Russo G, et al. Evaluation of the fine needle aspiration biopsy in the preoperative selection of cold thyroid nodules. Cancer 1991;67(8):2137-41. Elsheikh- 8

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