Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is a simple, quick & inexpensive method that is used to sample palpable superficial lesions. It is performed in the outpatient clinic & doesn’t need hospital admission. It causes minimal trauma to the patient & carries virtually no risks or complications. A thin hollow needle is inserted into the lump for the sampling of cells that, after being stained are examined under a microscope.
The common sites where FNAC is performed include superficial lymph nodes (cervical, inguinal, axillary) thyroid, salivary gland, breast, and superficial lesions in the body. Sometimes FNAC is performed under ultrasound (USG) guidance if the lesion is small in size or not palpable.USG guided FNAC is also used for lesions in the liver & pancreas.
This technique can be used to diagnose inflammatory conditions, tuberculosis, goiter & malignancies. This helps to avoid unnecessary surgeries & determine the type of surgery to the performed. However, it is not a substitute for conventional surgical histopathology. A specific diagnosis may not be possible in a proportion of cases. FNAC can be done in people of all ages from infants to elderly.
Dr. Minu Abraham, MBBS, MD