Morphological spectrum of adenoid-cystic carcinoma of the breast: focus on diagnostic and prognostic features

Published:December 28, 2021DOI:


      Adenoid cystic carcinoma (AdCC) is a salivary gland-type of cancer that may also occur in the breast. Breast AdCC shows the same morphological spectrum as is observed in salivary glands, with recognition of individual subtypes that may differ in their clinical behaviour. AdCC classic variant (C-AdCC) is a slowly growing tumour, with a low rate of axillary node and distant metastases. Local recurrences may develop as a consequence of incomplete surgical excision. C-AdCC should be differentiated from the solid-basaloid variant of AdCC (SB-AdCC) that is characterized by nuclear atypia, frequent mitotic figures and necrosis, in addition to the solid architecture. SB-AdCC is a more aggressive tumour, with higher rates of axillary node and distant metastases. AdCC may also co-exist with more aggressive types of carcinoma including metaplastic and neuroendocrine carcinoma, referred to as AdCC with high grade transformation (HG-AdCC). This paper reviews the key diagnostic criteria of the different subtypes of breast AdCC with emphasis on differential diagnosis and prognostic parameters.


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