Apocrine Metaplasia Found at MR Biopsy: Is There Something to be Learned

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Diagnosis | Radiology


The purpose of this study was to determine (a) the frequency of apocrine metaplasia (ApoM) found on MR core biopsy of suspicious findings, and (b) to determine if there are specific MR imaging features that might obviate the need for biopsy. This HIPAA-compliant retrospective study was performed under IRB exemption for quality assurance studies. Patient demographics, MR imaging features, and pathology were reviewed. Breast lesions which underwent MR-guided biopsy, yielding ApoM on pathology analysis were included. Retrospective review of MR imaging features of these lesions was performed by two radiologists blinded to pathology results except for the presence of ApoM. Imaging features on MR assessed included location, size, morphology, T1 and T2 signals, and enhancement kinetics. Full pathology results were subsequently reviewed during data analysis. The pathology slides and imaging was subsequently reviewed by two fellowship trained radiologists and a breast pathologist to categorize the finding of ApoM into target lesion (imaging corresponds to size of lesion on pathology) versus incidental lesion. Target lesion characteristics were assessed to determine specific MRI features of ApoM. Between January 2011 to November 2012, 155 distinct breast lesions suspicious for malignancy successfully underwent MR-guided biopsy. Of the 155 lesions biopsied, 123 (79%) were benign and 32 (21%) were malignant. Of the 123 benign biopsies, ApoM was found in 57 (46%), of which 35 (61%) had no associated atypia and 22 (39%) had associated atypia. Of the 32 malignant biopsies, three (9%) had associated ApoM (DCIS in two cases and DCIS/LCIS in one case). Of the 60 cases with ApoM, only 11 (18.3%) were target lesions and 49 were incidental lesions (81.7%). Of the 60 cases with ApoM, 35 (58%) were masses (average size 0.8 cm for both with or without atypia) and 25 (42%) were nonmass enhancement (NME) (average size 2.1 cm with and 1.0 cm without atypia). Only five (14%) of 35 masses demonstrated spiculated margins, of which four were associated with atypia (80%). Of 22 lesions with atypia or other high-risk lesion, 14 (64%) were masses, most commonly with irregular margins (64%). Of the 12 T2 hyperintense lesions, only two (1.7)% had associated atypia or high-risk lesion, and none were associated with malignancy. Of the 11 target lesions, seven were T2 hyperintense. Enhancement kinetics were variable: 30 (50%) showed mixed persistent and plateau kinetics, eight (13%) persistent delayed enhancement, 10 (17%) plateau kinetics, four (7%) washout kinetics, and eight (13%) were below threshold for kinetic analysis. ApoM is a common benign pathologic result at MR-guided core biopsy for both masses and NME accounting for 39% of all biopsy results in this series. Although there is considerable variability in imaging characteristics on MR, our results suggest biopsy may be safely obviated for lesions that are subcentimeter T2 hyperintense areas of NME and short term follow-up imaging may be a reasonable alternative for these lesions.


apocrine cyst, apocrine metaplasia, apocrine metaplasia on breast MRI, benign features on breast MRI, benign MRI-guided biopsy results, breast MRI, false positive, false positive MR biopsy results, fibrocystic change, MRI-guided breast biopsy, unnecessary MRI-guided breast biopsy

DOI of Published Version



Breast J. 2017 Jul;23(4):429-435. doi: 10.1111/tbj.12755. Epub 2017 Jan 12. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The breast journal

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID