Pleural Effusion and an Axillary Mass in a Woman With Hypertension

Maurie Markman, MD

Disclosures

March 30, 2021

Editor's Note:
The Case Challenge series includes difficult-to-diagnose conditions, some of which are not frequently encountered by most clinicians but are nonetheless important to accurately recognize. Test your diagnostic and treatment skills using the following patient scenario and corresponding questions. If you have a case that you would like to suggest for a future Case Challenge, please contact us .

Background

A 58-year-old woman seeks medical attention after she discovered a new mass in her left axilla during a routine monthly breast self-examination while showering. She has not noted any changes in either of her breasts. The mass in her left axilla is not tender, and she has not felt any other abnormal masses, including in her right axilla. She reports no other symptoms and specifically has no pain anywhere in her body. She also does not have shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, fatigue, rash, or abdominal discomfort or bloating.

Fifteen years earlier, the patient was diagnosed with high-grade, stage 1 cervical cancer and underwent surgery and chemoradiation. She has been closely monitored since that time with physical examinations and abdominal CT, with no evidence of recurrent disease. The patient has not had any other surgical procedure, except for removal of two basal cell carcinomas on her neck 4 years ago. She has had yearly routine mammograms for at least the past 15 years.

The patient has hypertension, which has been well controlled with the same medications for the past 10 years. She also has a 25-year history of type 2 diabetes mellitus, which is currently managed with diet alone. She had a "silent myocardial infarction" sometime within the past 5 years but has had no cardiac symptoms and is not taking any cardiac medications. She smoked approximately one pack of cigarettes a day for less than 2 years when she was "in her teens" but has not had any tobacco products since that time.

Pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in the patient's father at age 49 years, and breast cancer was diagnosed in her aunt on her father's side at age 67 years. Her paternal grandmother is reported to have died in her 60s after diagnosis of a "cancer in her stomach." No further information is available regarding either the actual diagnosis or the medical care provided to this individual.

To the best of the patient's knowledge, her mother's side of the family and her two brothers have no history of cancer. She has no sisters. Her mother is in her 80s and has mild dementia. The patient is not aware of any member of her family having undergone genetic testing.

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