Aspiration cytology of neoplastic and non-neoplastic ovarian cysts: Is it accurate?

P. Ganjei, B. Dickinson, T. A. Harrison, M. Nassiri, Y. Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


To evaluate the role of aspiration cytology in the distinction between neoplastic and non-neoplastic ovarian cysts, we examined the cytology of 81 aspirates from 80 women 14-67 years of age. We then correlated results with subsequent histology or the clinical follow-up. Aspirations were performed during laparoscopy (32 cases) or immediately after surgical removal of the tumors (49 cases). The cysts ranged in size from 1.0 to 43.0 cm. Papanicolaou-stained cytospin preparations of samples were evaluated, and the lesions were classified into non-neoplastic (68 cases), benign neoplasms (four cases), and malignant neoplasms (nine cases). Cytologic impressions were correlated with histologic findings in 74 cases and with the clinical follow-up in the remaining seven. Nine of the 12 (75%) cystadenocarcinomas, including two serous neoplasms of low malignant potential (LMP), were correctly diagnosed as malignant by cytology. There were no false-positive results. On the other hand, of the 26 benign neoplasms (19 cystadenomas and seven mature cystic teratomas), only four teratomas (15%) could be subclassified specifically. The remaining 68 aspirates were classified as non-neoplastic. Seventy-seven percent of all proven non-neoplastic cysts measured <8.0 cm, whereas 77% of all benign and malignant neoplastic cysts were >8.0 cm. The overall diagnostic accuracy was improved from 63% to 69% when cyst size was taken into consideration. In malignant cysts the diagnostic sensitivity was 75%, specificity 100%, and overall accuracy 96%. We arrived at the following conclusions: Aspiration cytology is an accurate predictor of malignancy in ovarian cystic lesions, but because the sensitivity of the technique is not high enough, one should not rely on aspiration cytology alone; The differential diagnosis between cystadenocarcinomas and tumors of low malignant potential cannot be made by cytology; Although it is difficult to distinguish between benign neoplasms and non-neoplastic benign cysts, diagnostic accuracy will improve when the size of the lesion is considered; Aspiration cytology can provide particularly useful information in young women with functional cysts of the ovary to avoid an unnecessary operation; Acellular cyst fluids should not be considered nondiagnostic because they represent benign cysts in the majority of cases; False-negative results of fine-needle aspiration of cystic ovarian lesions is usually due to low cellularity of the sample and secondary degenerative changes; Negative fine-needle aspiration results should be followed clinically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-101
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Gynecological Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • Cysts
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Follicular cysts
  • Neoplasm
  • Ovary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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