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National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 184-187  

A rare case of breast carcinoma metastasis to mandible and vertebrae

1 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Government Dental College, Kottayam, Kerala, India
2 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Government Dental College, Kottayam, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication10-Apr-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. George Varghese
Government Dental College, Kottayam - 686 008, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-5950.154832

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Oral cavity metastases are considered rare and represent approximately 1% of all oral malignancies. Due to their rarity and atypical clinical and radiographic appearance, metastatic lesions are considered a diagnostic challenge. This article presents a rare case of breast carcinoma with metastasis to mandible and vertebrae. A case is presented of a 40-year-old female patient with a history of breast carcinoma which was surgically treated approximately 2 years back. The diagnosis of metastatic breast carcinoma was confirmed by radiographic examination, bone scan and histopathologic findings. She was referred to radiotherapy department since it was not amenable to surgery due to metastasis in vertebrae. A high index of clinical suspicion of metastatic cancer is necessary when evaluating patients who complaint of jaw pain and swelling with a history of non-head and neck carcinoma.

Keywords: Lower jaw, primary breast carcinoma, secondary

How to cite this article:
Varghese G, Singh SP, Sreela L S. A rare case of breast carcinoma metastasis to mandible and vertebrae. Natl J Maxillofac Surg 2014;5:184-7

How to cite this URL:
Varghese G, Singh SP, Sreela L S. A rare case of breast carcinoma metastasis to mandible and vertebrae. Natl J Maxillofac Surg [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Jan 29];5:184-7. Available from: https://www.njms.in/text.asp?2014/5/2/184/154832

   Introduction Top

Malignant tumors metastatic to the oral cavity are uncommon, comprising about 1% of newly diagnosed oral malignancies. [1],[2],[3],[4] The mandible is affected more frequently than the maxilla, with a predilection for the areas distal to the canines, including the body and ramus. [1],[4],[5],[6]

Cancers from almost any primary site can metastasize to the jaws, but those from the breast, lung, kidney and prostate do so most frequently. [7],[8],[9] In males, primary cancer of the lung most commonly metastasize to the jaws followed in frequency by prostatic and renal cancers. In females, jaw metastasis most commonly originates from breast primaries followed by primaries of the adrenal and genitalia. [1],[5],[10]

Patients with metastatic jaw disease demonstrate various clinical signs and symptoms that include pain, swelling, paresthesia of the lip, loose or extruded teeth, halitosis, regional lymphadenopathy, mandibular nerve involvement and numb-chin syndrome, cortical expansion of the jawbones, ulceration, trismus, exophytic growth and rarely pathological fracture. [1],[4],[6] The disease might be totally asymptomatic as well. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13] These symptoms may not draw attention to a potential malignancy at the time of the initial presentation. [13]

In addition, sometimes these lesions might be mistaken with inflammatory or infectious diseases of the jaws and adjacent structures as a result of clinical and radiographic similarities. [12],[14],[15],[16] Therefore, early diagnosis requires a high degree of astuteness and histopathologic evaluation. In spite of their rarity, metastatic diseases of the jaw must be considered in the differential diagnosis of unknown jaw lesions especially in patients with a history of malignancy elsewhere in the body. [17]

In this report, a metastatic tumor of the mandible originating from a breast carcinoma, with atypical clinical and radiographic presentation is discussed.

   Case Report Top

The present case report is about a 40-year-old female patient with the complaints of a swelling in the mandibular angle region of 5 months duration she was referred to our department by her oncologist with the differential diagnosis of osteomyelitis or osteogenic sarcoma. On palpation a hard, non-tender, localized, round swelling of size 4 cm × 3 cm on left angle-ramus region was felt [Figure 1]. There were no palpable regional lymph nodes. Oral cavity examination did not reveal the existence of any ulcer, fistula or wound except missing lower left first molar.
Figure 1: Swelling on left mandibular angle region

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Her medical history revealed a modified radical mastectomy 2 years back for invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast. The tumor was positive for c-erbB-2(HER-2/neu) assay with score 3 plus in immunohistochemistry. Hence, she was on adjuvant hormone therapy.

A panoramic radiograph showed a retained root remnant of left mandibular first molar, carious second molar and an area of rarefaction on left angle region with indistinguishable margin [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Orthopantomogram shows an area of rarefaction on left angle region with indistinguishable margin

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Serial axial and coronal computed tomography (CT) scan of mandible (1 mm-thick slice) showed destructive lesion on left angle of mandible extending in to the ramus [Figure 3]. Features like Codman triangle and sunray appearance were seen in the margins of the lesion and minimum soft-tissue component were seen adjacent to it [Figure 4] axial view, [Figure 5] coronal view].
Figure 3: 3D computed tomography scan shows destructive lesion on left angle of mandible extending in to the ramus

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Figure 4: Axial computed tomography scan showing destructive lesion on left angle of mandible extending into the ramus. Codman triangle and sunray appearance seen in the margin of the lesion

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Figure 5: Coronal computed tomography scan showing destructive lesion on left angle of mandible extending into the ramus. Codman triangle and sunray appearance seen in the margin of the lesion

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The CT scan differential diagnosis included chronic osteomyelitis, osteogenic sarcoma and secondary metastasis. A fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) revealed loosely cohesive group of epithelial cell having increased N: C ratio and hyperchromatic nuclei in adenoid pattern [Figure 6]. It was diagnosed as infiltration from poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma, possibly of mammary ductal origin.
Figure 6: Photomicrograph of fine-needle aspiration cytology (×40)-poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma, possibly of mammary ductal origin

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A full body radionuclide scan was carried out and it was suggestive of skeletal metastases. A technetium-99m-methylene diphosphonate bone scan located a region of increased radioisotope uptake in the ramus of mandible on the left side as well as in the T-2 and T-10 vertebrae [Figure 7].
Figure 7: Skeletal scintigraphy showing abnormally increased focal trace uptake of technetium-99m isotope in the ramus of mandible on the left side and T1, T10 vertebrae

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The patient was referred back to her oncologist for further treatment since it was not amenable to surgical management.

   Discussion Top

A review of literature revealed that intraoral metastatic lesions have varied clinical presentations. [5] Patients often have vague or innocuous symptoms that can mimic dental infections and sometimes it might be asymptomatic. [1],[11] In a review of 114 cases of metastatic jaw tumors by D'Silva et al., [1] found that the most common jaw symptom was pain. Other signs and symptoms included swelling, presence of intraoral mass, loose or extruded teeth, cortical expansion, regional lymphadenopathy, gum irritation, ulceration, exophytic growth, halitosis, numbness or paresthesia of the lower lip and trismus. [4],[11],[12],[13] In the present case the patient complained only of a swelling on left mandibular angle region.

The classical radiographic appearance of metastatic disease in the jaws varies from well-circumscribed to poorly circumscribed radiolucency, often described as a ''moth-eaten'' appearance. Metastatic carcinomas from the breast and prostate might stimulate bone formation; hence these might appear as mixed radiopaque radiolucent lesions. [1] Interestingly, in a study of 673 cases by Hirshberg et al., in 2008 reported that approximately 5% of the cases did not show any radiographic changes. [5] In the present case the radiographic findings were that of a destructive lesion on the ramus region and a sunray appearance in the margin of the lesion [Figure 4] and [Figure 5].

As the clinical and radiographic presentation of a metastatic lesion can often be deceiving there lies the possibility of a misdiagnosis of a benign or malignant process. Therefore in such cases, especially in patients with a history of a malignant disease, biopsy is mandatory. [5],[15]

Taking a thorough medical history along with proper clinical and laboratory investigation including immunohistochemical staining might facilitate the diagnosis. [1] In the present case, history of breast cancer was known and therefore an FNAC was performed. In addition, the pathologic slides of the breast tumor were requested and compared with the jaw lesion [Figure 6] and [Figure 8], which confirmed the final diagnosis.
Figure 8: Photomicrograph of radical mastectomy specimen (×40)-invasive ductal carcinoma of breast with metastasis

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Most patients with a metastatic tumor in the oral cavity also develop metastases at other sites, often leaving no other option other than palliation. [2],[12],[13],[16] In this case, the bone scan at the time of diagnosis revealed additional metastasis in vertebrae.

Regardless of the site of origin, oral cavity metastases are reported as the first clinical symptom of a primary malignancy in 22-33% of patients. [18],[19],[20] Several authors have reported that adenocarcinoma is the most common histologic type and that breast adenocarcinoma is the most common malignancy that metastasizes to the mandible or maxilla. [2],[20],[21]

Pain relief and avoidance of possible infections, fractures or hemorrhage should be the major goals in the management. [20] The management of metastatic breast carcinomas of the oral cavity is primarily palliative and may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and rarely surgical intervention.

   Conclusion Top

Despite their rarity, metastatic tumors should be considered in the differential diagnosis of inflammatory and reactive lesions of the jaws. This case emphasizes the importance of a complete and careful work-up with particular attention to detailed medical history as well as careful clinical, radiographic and histopathologic examination. As these lesions are associated with a poor prognosis, early detection is of extreme importance.

   References Top

D'Silva NJ, Summerlin DJ, Cordell KG, Abdelsayed RA, Tomich CE, Hanks CT, et al. Metastatic tumors in the jaws: A retrospective study of 114 cases. J Am Dent Assoc 2006;137:1667-72.  Back to cited text no. 1
van der Waal RI, Buter J, van der Waal I. Oral metastases: Report of 24 cases. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2003;41:3-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Scipio JE, Murti PR, Al-Bayaty HF, Matthews R, Scully C. Metastasis of breast carcinoma to mandibular gingiva. Oral Oncol 2001;37:393-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Dib LL, Soares AL, Sandoval RL, Nannmark U. Breast metastasis around dental implants: A case report. Clin Implant Dent Relat Res 2007;9:112-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hirshberg A, Shnaiderman-Shapiro A, Kaplan I, Berger R. Metastatic tumours to the oral cavity-pathogenesis and analysis of 673 cases. Oral Oncol 2008;44:743-52.  Back to cited text no. 5
Akinbami BO. Metastatic carcinoma of the jaws: A review of literature. Niger J Med 2009;18:139-42.  Back to cited text no. 6
Bodner L, Sion-Vardy N, Geffen DB, Nash M. Metastatic tumors to the jaws: A report of eight new cases. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal 2006;11:E132-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
Hirshberg A, Leibovich P, Buchner A. Metastatic tumors to the jawbones: Analysis of 390 cases. J Oral Pathol Med 1994;23:337-41.  Back to cited text no. 8
Rocha WC, Curado MP, Vêncio EF, Caixeta WB. Endometrial carcinoma metastatic to the mandible: A case report. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2000;58:914-6.  Back to cited text no. 9
Friedrich RE, Abadi M. Distant metastases and malignant cellular neoplasms encountered in the oral and maxillofacial region: Analysis of 92 patients treated at a single institution. Anticancer Res 2010;30:1843-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
Boyczuk EM, Solomon MP, Gold BD. Unremitting pain to the mandible secondary to metastatic breast cancer: A case report. Compendium 1991;12:104, 106, 108-10.  Back to cited text no. 11
Ogütcen-Toller M, Metin M, Yildiz L. Metastatic breast carcinoma mimicking periodontal disease on radiographs. J Clin Periodontol 2002;29:269-71.  Back to cited text no. 12
Pruckmayer M, Glaser C, Marosi C, Leitha T. Mandibular pain as the leading clinical symptom for metastatic disease: Nine cases and review of the literature. Ann Oncol 1998;9:559-64.  Back to cited text no. 13
Selden HS, Manhoff DT, Hatges NA, Michel RC. Metastatic carcinoma to the mandible that mimicked pulpal/periodontal disease. J Endod 1998;24:267-70.  Back to cited text no. 14
Menezes AV, Lima MP, Mendonca JE, Haiter-Neto F, Kurita LM. Breast adenocarcinoma mimicking temporomandibular disorders: A case report. J Contemp Dent Pract 2008;9:100-6.  Back to cited text no. 15
Panossian M, Gady J, Natarajan E, Eisenberg E. Breast cancer metastatic to the mandible misdiagnosed as parotitis: Report of a case. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2009;67:1333-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
Lu SY, Chen L. Mandible metastasis as the initial manifestation of breast carcinoma - Report of a case. Zhonghua Ya Yi Xue Hui Za Zhi 1991;10:98-103.  Back to cited text no. 17
Hirshberg A, Buchner A. Metastatic tumours to the oral region. An overview. Eur J Cancer B Oral Oncol 1995;31B: 355-60.  Back to cited text no. 18
Zachariades N. Neoplasms metastatic to the mouth, jaws and surrounding tissues. J Craniomaxillofac Surg 1989;17:283-90.  Back to cited text no. 19
Stavropoulos MF, Ord RA. Lobular adenocarcinoma of breast metastatic to the mandibular condyle. Report of a case and review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1993;75:575-8.  Back to cited text no. 20
Epstein JB, Knowling MA, Le Riche JC. Multiple gingival metastases from angiosarcoma of the breast. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1987;64:554-7.  Back to cited text no. 21


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8]

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