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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 316-318  

Contiguous multilevel vertebral metastasis in carcinoma breast mimicking spondylodiscitis

Department of Nuclear Medicine, SGPGIMS, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission05-Mar-2021
Date of Acceptance06-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication23-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Manish Ora
Department of Nuclear Medicine, SGPGIMS, Lucknow - 226 014, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijnm.ijnm_30_21

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A 59-year old female presented with a lump in the right breast for 6 months. She developed progressively increasing backache for 3 months. Magnetic resonance imaging spine was suggestive of hypointense heterogeneous signal intensity in multiple dorsal vertebrae (D3–D8) and suggestive of Pott's spine. Sonomammography suggested a lesion with irregular margin in the retro-areolar region. Fine-needle aspiration cytology was infiltrating duct carcinoma. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron-emission tomography–computed tomography revealed mass in the right breast with axillary lymph node. FDG-avid lytic destructive contiguous lesion was noted in mid-dorsal vertebrae. Apart from it, FDG-avid lytic lesion was also noted in the right iliac bone. The patient underwent vertebral lesion biopsy consistent with metastatic breast carcinoma. This case report demonstrates rare contiguous involvement of multiple vertebrae masquerading Pott's spine.

Keywords: Carcinoma breast, fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography/computed tomography, multilevel vertebral metastasis, spondylodiscitis, tuberculosis, mimicking

How to cite this article:
Saini VK, Mammoottil AE, Ora M, Gambhir S, Nazar AH. Contiguous multilevel vertebral metastasis in carcinoma breast mimicking spondylodiscitis. Indian J Nucl Med 2021;36:316-8

How to cite this URL:
Saini VK, Mammoottil AE, Ora M, Gambhir S, Nazar AH. Contiguous multilevel vertebral metastasis in carcinoma breast mimicking spondylodiscitis. Indian J Nucl Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8];36:316-8. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Carcinoma Breast is the most common malignancy of females. It commonly metastasis to the skeletal system. The diagnosis of bone metastasis on the anatomical or functional imaging is more specific when there is non-contiguous involvement of multiple bones. Tuberculosis is an endemic disease in many developing nations. The differentiation of the various inflammatory pathologies and malignancy sometimes becomes difficult. FDG PET/CT is a whole-body hybrid functional modality, which discloses the other sites of disease involvement and helps in narrowing the differential diagnosis. We report a case of a 59-year-old female who presented with carcinoma breast along with contiguous involvement of dorsal vertebrae. FDG PET/CT helps to evaluate the metastatic burden of the disease.

   Case Report Top

A 59-year old female presented with a lump in the right breast for 6 months. She had progressively increasing backache for 3 months. The patient ignored breast mass and consulted an orthopedics for backache. She had a history of pulmonary tuberculosis treatment in the past. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine suggested hypointense heterogeneous signal intensity in multiple dorsal vertebrae (D3–D8). MRI findings were in favor of infectious spondylitis, likely tubercular (Pott's spine). Sonomammography suggested a heterogeneous lesion with an irregular margin in the retro-areolar region. FDG PET/CT was done for metastatic work-up. It revealed primary breast mass and axillary lymph node. Multiple lytic destructive lesions were noted in the dorsal vertebrae along with right iliac bone lesion [Figure 1], [Figure 2]. Fine-needle aspiration cytology was infiltrating duct carcinoma. Due to the primary breast mass, a possibility of atypical vertebral metastases was considered. The skeleton is the most frequent site of distant metastasis in breast cancer.[1] Bone metastasis develops in over 70% of metastatic breast cancer.[2] Despite skeletal metastasis-related morbidities (pain, fractures, hypercalcemia, and spinal cord compression), the survival of patients with bone metastases alone is relatively longer than with visceral disease.[3] Therefore, an appropriate evaluation of the metastatic burden is vital. In carcinoma breast patients presented with skeletal pain, bone scintigraphy or CT scan is done. In osteoblastic lesions, bone scintigraphy had a similar performance with fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG PET/CT). However, in lytic or mixed lesions, 18F-FDG PET/CT's sensitivity is better.[4]
Figure 1: (a) FDG-PET, MIP image show FDG- avid lesions on the right breast (blue arrow), right axillae (yellow arrow), contiguous multiple dorsal vertebral involvements, and focal uptake in the right iliac bone (red arrows), (b and c) Image of the thorax showed lobulated soft-tissue density mass lesion in the breast (SUVmax 7.4), (d and e) Images at axillary region revealed solitary right axillary lymph node (yellow arrow). FDG-avid lytic destructive lesion is noted in dorsal vertebra involving both anterior and posterior elements. There are paravertebral and intracanalicular soft-tissue components (red arrow). FDG-PET: Fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography, SUVmax: Maximum standardized uptake value, MIP: Maximum intensity projection

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Figure 2: (a and b) FDG PET/CT images of the thorax showed FDG-avid lytic destructive lesion involving multiple dorsal vertebral with paravertebral soft-tissue components. (c and d) Images reveal the same finding and involvement of intervertebral disc and partial collapse of few vertebrae, (e and f) A lytic lesion in the right iliac bone. Red arrows represent all skeletal lesions. FDG PET/CT: Fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography/computed tomography

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CT provides excellent resolution of cortical and trabecular bone. CT has higher sensitivity to plain radiography in detecting both osteolytic and osteosclerotic metastases.[5] Due to its excellent soft-tissue resolution, MRI is the imaging modality of choice for assessing metastatic spread in the marrow, the extension of tumor from marrow, and involvement of surrounding structures.[6] MRI is the technique of choice in suspected cord compression from vertebral body fracture.[7]

Differential diagnosis between spinal metastasis and infectious spondylodiscitis is one of the daily clinical practice challenges, especially in developing nations. Continuous vertebral body involvement with skip lesions may be present in TB and malignancy. Tuberculosis infection in the bones and lungs may mimic primary or secondary involvement of malignancy.[8] In this case, MRI showed destructive lesion, diffuse bone marrow infiltrations with paraspinal soft tissue in contiguous dorsal vertebrae. It made difficult to differentiate between metastasis and spondylodiscitis. Tuberculous spondylodiscitis was regarded as the more appropriate diagnosis. FDG PET CT could unveil previously unidentified pelvis metastases, which lead to a diagnosis of multiple skeletal metastases. A CT-guided biopsy confirmed a final diagnosis of metastasis. This study highlights the importance of whole-body FDG PET CT imaging in the malignancy and rare contiguous involvement of the vertebra in breast malignancy.

[TAG:2]Conclusion [/TAG:2]

It is not uncommon to encounter a cancer patient who had a history of tuberculosis now referred for FDG PET/CT. It is crucial to perceive that the FDG could be positive in both inflammatory and malignant lesions. However, the pattern of the disease spread should warrant a biopsy site so that one could avoid misdiagnosis. This case highlights the importance of molecular imaging that led to change in the management of a disease.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient (s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Koolen BB, Vegt E, Rutgers EJ, Vogel WV, Stokkel MP, Hoefnagel CA, et al. FDG-avid sclerotic bone metastases in breast cancer patients: A PET/CT case series. Ann Nucl Med 2012;26:86-91.  Back to cited text no. 1
Jung SY, Rosenzweig M, Sereika SM, Linkov F, Brufsky A, Weissfeld JL. Factors associated with mortality after breast cancer metastasis. Cancer Causes Control 2012;23:103-12.  Back to cited text no. 2
Domchek SM, Younger J, Finkelstein DM, Seiden MV. Predictors of skeletal complications in patients with metastatic breast carcinoma. Cancer 2000;89:363-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Liu NB, Zhu L, Li MH, Sun XR, Hu M, Huo ZW, et al. Diagnostic value of 18F-FDG PET/CT in comparison to bone scintigraphy, CT and 18F-FDG PET for the detection of bone metastasis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2013;14:3647-52.  Back to cited text no. 4
O'Sullivan GJ, Carty FL, Cronin CG. Imaging of bone metastasis: An update. World J Radiol 2015;7:202-11.  Back to cited text no. 5
Costelloe CM, Rohren EM, Madewell JE, Hamaoka T, Theriault RL, Yu TK, et al. Imaging bone metastases in breast cancer: Techniques and recommendations for diagnosis. Lancet Oncol 2009;10:606-14.  Back to cited text no. 6
Yu HH, Tsai YY, Hoffe SE. Overview of diagnosis and management of metastatic disease to bone. Cancer Control 2012;19:84-91.  Back to cited text no. 7
Ye M, Huang J, Wang J, Ren J, Tu J, You W, et al. Multifocal musculoskeletal tuberculosis mimicking multiple bone metastases: A case report. BMC Infect Dis 2016;16:34.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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