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Pulmonary Pathology Online

Exfoliative Pulmonary Cytology-Features of Small Cell Carcinoma

Dr Sampurna Roy MD     




Image1: Sputum- Small cell carcinoma- Clusters of small hyperchromatic malignant cells loosely arranged. Malignant cells show scanty cytoplasm. There is coarse chromatin and nuclear moulding.

Image2: Bronchial washing- Small cell carcinoma- Small malignant cells showing crush artefact.


1. Confident recognition is often possible even in scanty samples.


2. Small cells, slightly larger than lymphocytes, in loosely associated groups in sputum, or dispersed in liquid-based preparations, washings and lavages.


3. Scanty cyanophilic cytoplasm, leading to nuclear moulding.


4. Coarse "salt and pepper" or dense chromatin. Nucleoli inconspicuous.


5. Small foci of necrosis.


6. Cells are larger in bronchial brushings and may show crush artefact.


7. Squamous metaplasia is often present (smoking association).


Further reading:

Distinguishing carcinoid tumor from small cell carcinoma of the lung: correlating cytologic features and performance in the College of American Pathologists Non-Gynecologic Cytology Program.

Small cell carcinoma versus other lung malignancies: diagnosis by fine-needle aspiration cytology. 

Detection of large cell component in small cell lung carcinoma by combined cytologic and histologic examinations and its clinical implication.

Small-cell carcinoma of the lung. Cytological, roentgenologic, and clinical findings in a consecutive series diagnosed by fine-needle aspiration biopsy.



Dr Sampurna Roy  MD

Consultant  Histopathologist (Kolkata - India)






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