Clinician's commentary: Atypia in salivary gland fine needle aspiration

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Due to the heterogenicity and morphological overlap among the broad spectrum of benign and malignant salivary gland lesions, cytopathology result interpretations can be challenging and variable even among the most experienced head and neck pathologist. There was no standardization of cytopathology result reporting until the recently proposed “Milan system for reporting salivary gland cytopathology” (MSRSGC). MSRSGC may offer more clarity and help minimize ambiguity, but surgeons, as part of multidisciplinary teams, do not only rely on the tiered stratification and risk of malignancy assessment. With only the MSRSGC reported, there may be critical information missing from the overall diagnostic evaluation of salivary gland masses. Cytopathologist evaluation, description of findings, and expert interpretation of the fine-needle aspiration cytology along with differential diagnosis can be critical pieces of information, that is, utilized in management discussions with patients and their families. This information needs to be included in every cytopathology interpretation in addition to the MSRSGC classification. In clinical practice, decisions concerning salivary gland tumor management are not based on single examinations but incorporate information from multiple sources including patient histories, clinical symptoms and signs, physical examinations, imaging studies, and when available, cytopathology. Additional cytopathology information will likely help to improve the utility and predictive power of MSRSGC, similar to Bethesda Classification and the predictive importance of nuclear atypia in indeterminate thyroid biopsy material for thyroid neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-163
Number of pages2
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • FNA
  • Milan system
  • fine needle aspiration
  • salivary gland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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