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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


Sentinel Lymph Node Involvement by Epithelial Inclusions Mimicking Metastatic Carcinoma: A Diagnostic Pitfall

Challenging differential diagnosis, Diagnostic / therapeutic accidents, Rare disease

Asha C. Sigei, Brooke B. Bartow, Yurong Wheeler

USA Department of Pathology, Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, USA

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e926094

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.926094

Available online: 2020-10-19

Published: 2020-11-27


BACKGROUND: An epithelial inclusion cyst within a lymph node denotes a heterotopic phenomenon. Nodal epithelial inclusion cysts have been reported in a variety of anatomical locations including pelvic, abdominal, mediastinal, and axillary regions. While nodal melanocytic nevus (also known as nevus cell aggregates) is the most common heterotopic phenomena involving the axillary lymph nodes, the presence of benign epithelial inclusion cysts in axillary lymph nodes is a rare but well-reported finding. Such documentation is in part due to assessment of sentinel lymph nodes in breast cancer becoming standard of care. These epithelial inclusion cysts offer a diagnostic pitfall in evaluation of sentinel lymph node in the setting of breast carcinoma. They also complicate assessment of sentinel lymph node during intraoperative frozen sections analysis.
CASE REPORT: We report a case of co-existent of benign squamous-type and glandular-type epithelial inclusions cysts in 2 sentinel lymph nodes in a patient with grade III invasive ductal carcinoma involving the left breast. There have been at least 4 cases reported in literature in which benign epithelial inclusion cysts in sentinel lymph nodes were first mistakenly diagnosed as metastatic carcinoma both during intraoperative frozen section analysis and during review of permanent sections. The missed diagnosis could potentially occur intraoperatively during frozen section sentinel lymph node analysis secondarily due to lack of availability of the primary tumor for comparison and inability to use immunohistochemical stains.
CONCLUSIONS: Pathologists should be aware of this pitfall especially in frozen section analysis of sentinel lymph node to avoid misdiagnosis and its associated potential grave consequences.

Keywords: Frozen Sections, Lymph Nodes, Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy