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Atlas of breast cancer early detection

Breast pathology – Cytopathology of the breast – Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) procedure


A small, fine-bore needle connected to a syringe is used to take a sample of cells from the breast tissue for FNAC. Smears from this sample are prepared on-site, then sent to the laboratory, stained, and examined under a microscope. The technique does not require elaborate tissue processing or expensive equipment and is therefore an inexpensive method of diagnosis. Expertise in aspirating the sample is as important as sample interpretation in achieving the correct diagnosis. Palpable breast lesions can be aspirated directly by a skilled provider. For non-palpable breast lesions detected on imaging, a radiologist guides the needle into the target lesion. Image guidance is also useful to reduce sampling errors in palpable lesions with a variegated appearance. We have described the steps used to perform FNAC under ultrasound guidance in earlier sections. In the following sections we will describe how to perform FNAC from a palpable lesion without image guidance.


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