Fine needle aspiration

What does the procedure involve?

Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) uses a very small needle (smaller than the one we use for blood tests) and a syringe to poke at a lump several times whilst using the syringe to remove cells from a lump for examination under the microscope.

The procedure is done under local anaesthetics.

What kind of results does it give?

FNAC tells us if the cells in a lump are normal, atypical (abnormal but not cancerous) and cancerous. It gives us an indication on the nature of a lump but does not tell us exactly what the lump is. For example, if the cells are reported cancerous, FNAC cannot tell us whether the lump is a breast cancer or DCIS (pre-cancerous condition).

When should I consider an FNAC?

FNAC is ideal for providing additional information on the tiny lumps and bumps that you would like to leave alone and monitor.

What are the risks?

FNAC is very well tolerated with minor risks. These include bruising and swelling, which will go away over time. There may be a little bit of discomfort afterwards, which goes away with paracetamol (Panadol).

Procedure information

  • Type of Anaesthetic: Local
  • Length of procedure: around 20 minutes
  • Nights in Hospital: None. Procedure done in clinic
  • Recovery: No time needed off work