Preoperative characteristics and cytological features of 136 histologically confirmed pancreatic mucinous cystic neoplasms

Aristana Scourtas, Jonathan C Dudley, William R Brugge, Abdurrahman Kadayifci, Mari Mino-Kenudson, Martha B Pitman
Cancer Cytopathology 2017, 125 (3): 169-177

BACKGROUND: Mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs) of the pancreas present a management conundrum. The majority are benign but all are resected due to their malignant potential. Recent studies have recommended nonsurgical management. In the current study, the authors analyzed the preoperative imaging, cytology, and cyst fluid characteristics of 136 histologically confirmed MCNs to assess predictors of a high-risk (HR) cyst for surgical triage.

METHODS: MCNs resected at the Massachusetts General Hospital between 1990 and 2014 formed the study cohort. Patient demographics, cyst size, and mural nodules (MNs) by endoscopic ultrasound, cytology, and cyst fluid carcinoembryonic antigen and amylase levels were correlated with histological grade. A HR cyst was defined as high-grade dysplasia or invasive carcinoma on histology. Performance characteristics were assessed for each parameter, with a cyst size ≥3 cm or a MN on imaging and malignant cytology considered to be "true-positive" results for predicting malignancy.

RESULTS: Only 15 of the 136 cysts had HR histology (11%). On average, patients with HR cysts were older than those with low-risk cysts (55 years vs 49 years, respectively). High-grade cytology was the most accurate predictor of malignancy (95%) followed by MN and cyst size together (88%) and MN alone (83%). The average carcinoembryonic antigen level (in ng/mL) increased with the grade of dysplasia but the ranges overlapped between low risk and HR cysts.

CONCLUSIONS: To the authors' knowledge, the current study is the largest series to date analyzing the cytological features of histologically confirmed MCN. Cytology is insensitive but very specific for detecting a HR MCN and outperformed imaging for the detection of HR MCN. Endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration and cytology should be performed on any clinically suspected MCN that is being considered for conservative management. Cancer Cytopathol 2017;125:169-177. © 2016 American Cancer Society.

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