Signet-ring cell carcinoma in gastric biopsies: Expecting the unexpected

Christopher P. Golembeski, Robert Maximilian Genta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aims: This study was designed to establish the relative prevalence of intestinal-type and signet-ring carcinoma in gastric biopsy specimens from ambulatory patients, to determine the percentage of signet-ring carcinomas that could be expected based on the available clinical and endoscopic information, and to estimate the likelihood of missing a tumour. Methods: We extracted data of all patients with a diagnosis of primary gastric carcinoma from a national pathology database. We then reviewed clinical information and original slides, classified tumours as intestinal or signet-ring-type, and categorised the latter as 'unexpected' (no alarming symptoms, no mention of suspicious lesions) or 'expected' (clinical or endoscopic information suggestive of tumour). Unexpected signetring carcinomas were categorised as 'obvious' or 'challenging' (rare signet-ring cells; immunohistochemical stains used to confirm the nature of the infiltrates). Results: There were 310 109 patients with gastric biopsies; 615 patients had primary gastric carcinoma (359 intestinal and 256 signet-ring-type). Gastric cancer was more common in men (OR 2.54; 95% CI 2.05 to 3.14; p<.0001) for intestinal-type and (OR 1.90; 95% CI 1.48 to 2.42; p<0.0001) for signet-ring cell type). Intestinal-type carcinoma occurred in older patients than signet-ring-type (median age 74 vs 65 years, p<0.001). There were 196 expected and 60 unexpected signet-ring carcinomas; 47 of the 60 unexpected cases were histopathologically obvious. Thus, only 13 signet-ring carcinomas (1 in 25 000 gastric biopsy sets) were truly unexpected. Conclusions: Signet-ring carcinoma is a rare finding in gastric biopsy specimens from ambulatory patients; routine due diligence and the clinical/endoscopic information provided are usually adequate to raise pathologists' index of suspicion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-139
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of clinical pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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