Performance of ovarian cyst fluid fine-needle aspiration cytology

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BACKGROUND: Although ovarian fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology is not commonly used as a primary modality of diagnosis for patients with ovarian lesions, many ovarian cysts are aspirated intraoperatively and occasionally for diagnostic purposes. Therefore, the ability to interpret these specimens remains critical. Previous studies have suggested a high specificity but low sensitivity as a limitation. The objective of the current study was to further explore the use and performance of ovarian cyst FNA for diagnosing malignancy at the study institution. METHODS: The electronic database was searched from 1998 through 2016 for ovarian cyst fluid cytology specimens; any concurrent or follow-up surgical pathology; and clinical information including patient age, radiology findings, and procedure type. Test performance was calculated using the surgical pathology diagnosis as the gold standard. RESULTS: A total of 459 ovarian cyst FNA specimens had the following diagnoses: 416 (90.6%) were diagnosed as benign, 32 (7.0%) as atypical, 4 (0.9%) as suspicious, and 7 (1.5%) as malignant. Overall, 300 specimens (65.4%) had a corresponding surgical pathology specimen. On follow-up, the rate of malignancy (including borderline neoplasms) for benign FNA was 10 of 264 specimens (3.8%), that for atypical FNA was 0 of 24 specimens (0%), that for suspicious FNA was 5 of 5 specimens (100%), and that for malignant FNA was 7 of 7 specimens (100%). Test sensitivity was 54.0% and test specificity was 100%. The positive predictive value was 1.00 and the negative predictive value was 0.97, with a disease (malignancy) prevalence of 7.33%. CONCLUSIONS: Ovarian cyst fluid cytology is highly specific and moderately sensitive for the detection of ovarian malignancies. A negative FNA is reassuring for patients with a low pretest probability of malignancy. Cancer Cytopathol 2018;126:112-21.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-121
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Cytopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • fine-needle aspiration (FNA)
  • ovarian carcinoma
  • ovarian cyst
  • ovarian neoplasm
  • ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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