Cytomorphology and diagnostic pitfalls of sebaceous and nonsebaceous salivary gland lymphadenoma: A multi-institutional study

Kartik Viswanathan, Zahra Maleki, Liron Pantanowitz, Richard Cantley, William C. Faquin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Salivary gland lymphadenoma (LAD) is a rare benign neoplasm comprising sebaceous (SLAD) and nonsebaceous (NSLAD) types. Despite established histologic criteria, limited data on cytomorphology, tumor heterogeneity, and overlap with other entities make the diagnosis of LAD by fine needle aspiration (FNA) challenging. We describe a multi-institutional cohort of 14 LADs with cytology, clinical, radiologic, and histopathologic data. Methods: Our cohort included nine SLAD and five NSLAD with corresponding histopathology. Mean patient age and M:F ratio were 60.4 years (range 45-86 years) and 1:2 for SLADs and 57.4 years (range 42-80 years) and 1:1.5 for NSLADs, respectively. One NSLAD patient had a germline predisposition for Cowden syndrome. Glass slides and whole slide images of air-dried Diff-Quik (DQ), alcohol-stained Papanicolaou smears (Pap) and cellblocks were reviewed for key cytomorphologic findings. Results: FNAs from SLAD and NSLADs demonstrated vacuolated and basaloid epithelial clusters within a lymphoid background. Vacuolated cells from SLAD showed sebaceous cells with microvesicular cytoplasm indenting a central nucleus. Vacuolated cells from NSLAD were columnar with eccentric nuclei, corresponding to abluminal glandular cells. SLADs were classified using the Milan System for Reporting Salivary Gland Cytopathology as nondiagnostic (11.1%), nonneoplastic (44.4%), atypia of uncertain significance (AUS) (22.2%), and salivary gland neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential (SUMP) (22.2%). NSLADs were classified as AUS (40%), SUMP (40%) and Benign Neoplasm (20%). Conclusion: Although rare, knowing the cytologic features of salivary LAD is important to avoid diagnostic pitfalls. Vacuolated cells can be prominent in both SLAD and NSLAD aspirates. Diagnostic issues arise from insufficient sampling of all tumor components leading to marked variation in diagnostic classification of LAD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • fine needle aspiration
  • lymphadenoma
  • nonsebaceous
  • salivary
  • sebaceous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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