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Open access

Jai Madhok, Amy Kloosterboer, Chitra Venkatasubramanian, and Frederick G Mihm

Summary

We report the case of a 76-year-old male with a remote history of papillary thyroid cancer who developed severe paroxysmal headaches in the setting of episodic hypertension. Brain imaging revealed multiple lesions, initially of inconclusive etiology, but suspicious for metastatic foci. A search for the primary malignancy revealed an adrenal tumor, and biochemical testing confirmed the diagnosis of a norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. Serial imaging demonstrated multiple cerebral infarctions of varying ages, evidence of vessel narrowing and irregularities in the anterior and posterior circulations, and hypoperfusion in watershed areas. An exhaustive work-up for other etiologies of stroke including thromboembolic causes or vasculitis was unremarkable. There was resolution of symptoms, absence of new infarctions, and improvement in vessel caliber after adequate alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade for the management of pheochromocytoma. This clinicoradiologic constellation of findings suggested that the etiology of the multiple infarctions was reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Pheochromocytoma remains a poorly recognized cause of RCVS. Unexplained multifocal cerebral infarctions in the setting of severe hypertension should prompt the consideration of a vasoactive tumor as the driver of cerebrovascular dysfunction. A missed or delayed diagnosis has the potential for serious neurologic morbidity for an otherwise treatable condition.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of multifocal watershed cerebral infarctions of uncertain etiology in a patient with malignant hypertension should trigger the consideration of undiagnosed catecholamine secreting tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.
  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome is a serious but reversible cerebrovascular manifestation of pheochromocytomas that may lead to strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic), seizures, and cerebral edema.
  • Alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade can reverse cerebral vasoconstriction and prevent further cerebral ischemia and infarctions.
  • Early diagnosis of catecholamine secreting tumors has the potential for reducing neurologic morbidity and mortality in patients presenting with cerebrovascular complications.
Open access

Pratima Herle, Steven Boyages, Rina Hui, Najmun Nahar, and Nicholas K Ngui

Summary

In most developed countries, breast carcinoma is the most common malignancy in women and while thyroid cancer is less common, its incidence is almost three to five times greater in women than in men. Since 1966, studies have demonstrated an association between thyroid and breast cancer and despite these studies, the mechanism/s by which they are related, remains unclear. We present a case of a 56-year-old lady who initially presented in 2014 with a screen detected left breast carcinoma but was subsequently found to have occult metastatic thyroid cancer to the axilla, diagnosed from a sentinel node biopsy from the primary breast procedure. The patient underwent a left mastectomy, left axillary dissection and total thyroidectomy followed by three courses of radioactive iodine ablation. Despite this, her thyroglobulin level continued to increase, which was secondary to a metastatic thyroid cancer parasternal metastasis. Breast and thyroid cancer presents metachronously or synchronously more often than by chance. With improving mortality in primary cancers, such as breast and differentiated thyroid cancer, it is likely that as clinicians, we will continue to encounter this association in practice.

Learning points:

  • There has been a long-standing observation of an association between breast and thyroid cancer although the exact mechanism of this association remains unclear.
  • Our patient presented with thyroid cancer with an incidental diagnosis from a sentinel node biopsy during her primary breast operation for breast cancer and was also found to have a parasternal distant bony metastasis.
  • Thyroid axillary metastases are generally rare.
  • The interesting nature in which this patient’s metastatic thyroid carcinoma behaved more like a breast carcinoma highlights a correlation between these two cancers.
  • With improving mortality in these primary cancers, clinicians are likely to encounter this association in clinical practice.
  • Systemic therapy for metastatic breast and thyroid cancers differ and therefore a clear diagnosis of metastasis is crucial.
Open access

Mawson Wang, Benjamin Jonker, Louise Killen, Yvonne Bogum, Ann McCormack, and Ramy H Bishay

Summary

Cushing’s disease is a rare disorder characterised by excessive cortisol production as a consequence of a corticotroph pituitary tumour. While the primary treatment is surgical resection, post-operative radiation therapy may be used in cases of ongoing inadequate hormonal control or residual or progressive structural disease. Despite improved outcomes, radiotherapy for pituitary tumours is associated with hypopituitarism, visual deficits and, rarely, secondary malignancies. We describe an unusual case of a 67-year-old female with presumed Cushing’s disease diagnosed at the age of 37, treated with transsphenoidal resection of a pituitary tumour with post-operative external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), ketoconazole for steroidogenesis inhibition, and finally bilateral adrenalectomy for refractory disease. She presented 30 years after her treatment with a witnessed generalised tonic-clonic seizure. Radiological investigations confirmed an extracranial mass infiltrating through the temporal bone and into brain parenchyma. Due to recurrent generalised seizures, the patient was intubated and commenced on dexamethasone and anti-epileptic therapy. Resection of the tumour revealed a high-grade osteoblastic osteosarcoma. Unfortunately, the patient deteriorated in intensive care and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest following a likely aspiration event. We describe the risk factors, prevalence and treatment of radiation-induced osteosarcoma, an exceedingly rare and late complication of pituitary irradiation. To our knowledge, this is the longest reported latency period between pituitary irradiation and the development of an osteosarcoma of the skull.

Learning points:

  • Cushing’s disease is treated with transsphenoidal resection as first-line therapy, with radiotherapy used in cases of incomplete resection, disease recurrence or persistent hypercortisolism.
  • The most common long-term adverse outcome of pituitary tumour irradiation is hypopituitarism occurring in 30–60% of patients at 10 years, and less commonly, vision loss and oculomotor nerve palsies, radiation-induced brain tumours and sarcomas.
  • Currently proposed characteristics of radiation-induced osteosarcomas include: the finding of a different histological type to the primary tumour, has developed within or adjacent to the path of the radiation beam, and a latency period of at least 3 years.
  • Treatment of osteosarcoma of the skull include complete surgical excision, followed by systemic chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
  • Overall prognosis in radiation-induced sarcoma of bone is poor.
  • Newer techniques such as stereotactic radiosurgery may reduce the incidence of radiation-induced malignancies.
Open access

Mariana Barbosa, Sílvia Paredes, Maria João Machado, Rui Almeida, and Olinda Marques

Summary

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, currently used in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, have been described as a rare cause of pituitary apoplexy, a potentially life-threatening clinical condition. We report the case of a 69-year-old man with a known pituitary macroadenoma who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started treatment with GnRH agonist leuprorelin (other hormones were not tested before treatment). Few minutes after drug administration, the patient presented with acute-onset severe headache, followed by left eye ptosis, diplopia and vomiting. Pituitary MRI revealed tumor enlargement and T1-hyperintense signal, compatible with recent bleeding sellar content. Laboratory endocrine workup was significant for low total testosterone. The patient was managed conservatively with high-dose steroids, and symptoms significantly improved. This case describes a rare phenomenon, pituitary apoplexy induced by GnRH agonist. We review the literature regarding this condition: the pathophysiological mechanism involved is not clearly established and several hypotheses have been proposed. Although uncommon, healthcare professionals and patients should be aware of this complication and recognize the signs, preventing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary apoplexy (PA) is a potentially life-threatening complication that can be caused by gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) administration for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.
  • This complication is rare but should be taken into account when using GnRHa, particularly in the setting of a known pre-existing pituitary adenoma.
  • PA presents with classic clinical signs and symptoms that should be promptly recognized.
  • Patients should be instructed to seek medical care if suspicious symptoms occur.
  • Healthcare professionals should be aware of this complication, enabling its early recognition, adequate treatment and favorable outcome.
Open access

Kaja Grønning, Archana Sharma, Maria Adele Mastroianni, Bo Daniel Karlsson, Eystein S Husebye, Kristian Løvås, and Ingrid Nermoen

Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency. More than 90% is of B-cell origin. The condition is bilateral in up to 75% of cases, with adrenal insufficiency in two of three patients. We report two cases of adrenal insufficiency presenting at the age of 70 and 79 years, respectively. Both patients had negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies with bilateral adrenal lesions on CT. Biopsy showed B-cell lymphoma. One of the patients experienced intermittent disease regression on replacement dosage of glucocorticoids.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Bilateral adrenal masses of unknown origin or in individuals with suspected extra-adrenal malignancy should be biopsied quickly when pheochromocytoma is excluded biochemically.
  • Steroid treatment before biopsy may affect diagnosis.
  • Adrenal insufficiency with negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies should be evaluated radiologically.
Open access

J K Witczak, N Ubaysekara, R Ravindran, S Rice, Z Yousef, and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Graves’ disease is associated with tachydysrythmia, cardiac ischaemia and cardiomyopathy – all uncommon in young adults without previous cardiac disease. We present three young individuals who developed cardiac complications after periods of uncontrolled Graves’ disease. Subject 1: A 34-year-old female had severe thyrotoxic symptoms for weeks. Investigations showed fT4: 98.4 (11–25 pmol/L), fT3: 46.9 (3.1–6.8 pmol/L), TSH <0.01 (0.27–4.2 mU/L) and thyrotrophin receptor antibody (TRAb): 34.8 (<0.9 U//l). She had appropriate treatment but several weeks later she became breathless despite improving thyroid function. Echocardiography showed a pericardial effusion of 2.9 cm. She responded well to steroids and NSAIDs but developed active severe Graves’ orbitopathy after early total thyroidectomy. Subject 2: A 28-year-old male developed thyrotoxic symptoms (fT4: 38 pmol/L, fT3: 13.9 pmol/L, TSH <0.01 (for over 6 months) and TRAb: 9.3 U/L). One month after starting carbimazole, he developed acute heart failure (HF) due to severe dilated cardiomyopathy – EF 10–15%. He partially recovered after treatment – EF 28% and had early radioiodine treatment. Subject 3: A 42-year-old woman who had been thyrotoxic for several months (fT4: 54.3; fT3 >46.1; TSH <0.01; TRAb: 4.5) developed atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure. Echocardiography showed cardiomegaly – EF 29%. She maintains sinus rhythm following early total thyroidectomy (EF 50%). Significant cardiac complications may occur in previously fit young adults, who have had uncontrolled Graves’ disease for weeks to months. Cardiac function recovers in the majority, but early definitive treatment should be discussed to avoid Graves’ disease relapse and further cardiac decompensation.

Learning points:

  • Cardiac complications of Graves’ disease are uncommon in young adults without previous cardiac disease.
  • These complications may however occur if Graves’ disease had been poorly controlled for several weeks or months prior to presentation.
  • Persistent symptoms after adequate control should alert clinicians to the possibility of cardiac disease.
  • Specific treatment of Graves’ disease and appropriate cardiac intervention results in complete recovery in the majority and carries a good prognosis.
  • Early definitive treatment should be offered to them to prevent cardiac decompensation at times of further relapse.
Open access

Lorena Arnez and Victor Lawrence

Summary

A 40-year-old woman was hospitalised at 25-week gestation following a diagnosis of severe symptomatic hypercalcaemia (adjusted serum calcium 3.02 mmol/L). A diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHP) was made on the basis of elevated parathyroid hormone (PTH) 11.2 pmol/L (reference range 1.5–6.9) and exclusion of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia. Ultrasound examination of the neck did not convincingly demonstrate an abnormal or enlarged parathyroid gland and parathyroid scintigraphy was not performed due to maternal choice relating to perceived radiation risk to the foetus. At neck exploration during the 28th week of pregnancy a right lower pole parathyroid lesion was excised together with two abnormal lymph nodes (largest 1.6 cm). Histology confirmed a parathyroid adenoma and also papillary thyroid carcinoma deposits in the two resected lymph nodes. Post-operatively, levels of adjusted serum calcium normalised and pregnancy progressed uneventfully to term. Total thyroidectomy was performed 2 weeks after delivery revealing two small foci of papillary micro-carcinoma (largest 2.3 mm, one in each thyroid lobe) with no evidence of further metastatic tumour in lymph nodes removed during functional neck dissection. Radioiodine remnant ablation (RRA) was performed 2 months post thyroidectomy to allow for breast involution. The patient remains in full clinical and biochemical remission 9 years later. We present and review the difficult management decisions faced in relation to the investigation and treatment of PHP in pregnancy, further complicated by incidentally discovered locally metastatic pT1aN1aM0 papillary thyroid carcinoma.

Learning points:

  • PHP may have serious consequences during pregnancy and usually requires surgical management during pregnancy to reduce the risk of maternal and foetal complications. The indications for and optimal timing of surgical management are discussed.
  • Localisation by parathyroid scintigraphy is controversial during pregnancy: modified dose regimes may be considered in preference as an alternative to unguided neck exploration.
  • Breastfeeding is contraindicated for 6–8 weeks before radioactive-iodine remnant ablation (RRA) to prevent increased breast uptake. Breastfeeding is further contra-indicated until after a subsequent pregnancy.
  • Incidentally discovered differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) in cervical lymph nodes in some cases may be managed expectantly because in one quarter of thyroidectomies the primary tumour remains occult.
Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans, and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Open access

Sharmin Jahan, M A Hasanat, Tahseen Mahmood, Shahed Morshed, Raziul Haq, and Md Fariduddin

Summary

Silent corticotroph adenoma (SCA) is an unusual type of nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (NFA) that is silent both clinically and biochemically and can only be recognized by positive immunostaining for ACTH. Under rare circumstances, it can transform into hormonally active disease presenting with severe Cushing syndrome. It might often produce diagnostic dilemma with difficult management issue if not thoroughly investigated and subtyped accordingly following surgery. Here, we present a 21-year-old male who initially underwent pituitary adenomectomy for presumed NFA with compressive symptoms. However, he developed recurrent and invasive macroadenoma with severe clinical as well as biochemical hypercortisolism during post-surgical follow-up. Repeat pituitary surgery was carried out urgently as there was significant optic chiasmal compression. Immunohistochemical analysis of the tumor tissue obtained on repeat surgery proved it to be an aggressive corticotroph adenoma. Though not cured, he showed marked clinical and biochemical improvement in the immediate postoperative period. Anticipating recurrence from the residual tumor, we referred him for cyber knife radio surgery.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary NFA commonly present with compressive symptoms such as headache and blurred vision.
  • Post-surgical development of Cushing syndrome in such a case could be either drug induced or endogenous.
  • In the presence of recurrent pituitary tumor, ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome indicates CD.
  • Rarely a SCA presenting initially as NFA can transform into an active corticotroph adenoma.
  • Immunohistochemical marker for ACTH in the resected tumor confirms the diagnosis.
Open access

Haruhiko Yamazaki, Hiroyuki Iwasaki, Yoichiro Okubo, Nobuyasu Suganuma, Katsuhiko Masudo, Hirotaka Nakayama, Yasushi Rino, and Munetaka Masuda

Summary

The objective this study is to report two cases of thyroid gland invasion by upper mediastinal carcinoma. Mediastinal tumors are uncommon and represent 3% of the tumors seen within the chest. In reports on mediastinal masses, the incidence of malignant lesions ranged from 25 to 49%. The thyroid gland can be directly invaded by surrounding organ cancers. We report these cases contrasting them to the case of a thyroid cancer with mediastinal lesions. Case 1 was a 73-year-old woman who was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma, and she underwent surgery and postoperative radioactive iodine. Case 2 was a 74-year-old man who was diagnosed with non-small-cell lung carcinoma, favor squamous cell carcinoma, and he underwent chemoradiotherapy. Case 3 was a 77-year-old man who was diagnosed a thymic carcinoma based on pathological findings and referred the patient to thoracic surgeons for surgical management. The images of the three cases were similar, and the differential diagnoses were difficult and required pathological examination. Primary thyroid carcinoma and invading carcinoma originating from the adjacent organs need to be distinguished because their prognoses and treatment strategies are different. It is important to properly diagnose them by images and pathological findings.

Learning points:

  • The thyroid gland in the anterior neck can be directly invaded by surrounding organ cancers.
  • Primary thyroid carcinoma and invading carcinoma originating from the adjacent organs need to be distinguished because their prognoses and treatment strategies are different.
  • It is important to properly diagnose by images and pathological findings.