Scientific article
Case report

Medullary thyroid carcinoma, small cell variant, as a diagnostic challenge on fine needle aspiration: a case report

Published inActa cytologica, vol. 54, no. 5 Suppl, p. 911-917
Publication date2010

BACKGROUND: The small cell variant of medullary thyroid carcinoma (SCV-MTC) is a very unusual tumor that carries a poor prognosis. This tumor type closely resembles small cell pulmonary neuroendocrine carcinoma or lymphoma. CASE: A 43-year-old woman had a palpable mass on the right side of her neck. A fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) revealed a hypercellular lesion composed mainly of isolated, small, round cells with salt-and-pepper chromatin interspersed with inconspicuous deposits of fluffy acellular material. A diagnosis of "malignant tumor, consistent with small cell carcinoma, metastasis not excluded" was rendered during the on-site rapid cytologic examination. Immunostaining showed a few isolated cells reactive for calcitonin, intense and diffuse immunoreactivity for carcinoembryonic antigen, dotlike positivity for chromogranin and cytokeratin, and negativity for thyroglobulin. Congo-red staining was positive in the acellular deposit, consistent with SCV-MTC. Subsequent total thyroidectomy confirmed this diagnosis. CONCLUSION: The wide range of cytomorphologic features of MTC can be misleading on FNAB and can be a diagnostic challenge. Congo-red staining and immunoreactivity for calcitonin can be negative in this variant. Consequently, salt-and-pepper chromatin, Congo-red staining and a panel of antibodies comprising calcitonin, carcinoembryonic antigen, chromogranin, cytokeratin, leukocyte common antigen and thyroglobulin are mandatory for the correct diagnosis.

  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma, Medullary/ diagnosis/ pathology/surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Thyroid Gland/ pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms/ diagnosis/ pathology/surgery
Citation (ISO format)
YERLY, Stéphane David et al. Medullary thyroid carcinoma, small cell variant, as a diagnostic challenge on fine needle aspiration: a case report. In: Acta cytologica, 2010, vol. 54, n° 5 Suppl, p. 911–917.
Main files (1)
ISSN of the journal0001-5547

Technical informations

Creation05/23/2012 8:43:56 AM
First validation05/23/2012 8:43:56 AM
Update time03/14/2023 5:31:20 PM
Status update03/14/2023 5:31:20 PM
Last indexation02/12/2024 8:07:42 PM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack