Mammary tuberculosis mimicking breast cancer: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2008 Feb 1;2:34. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-2-34.


Introduction: The incidence of tuberculosis is rising worldwide and rare manifestations of the past are seen more often nowadays. Mammary tuberculosis is a rare clinical entity, often mimicking breast cancer or abscesses of benign or malignant origin. Clinical awareness is necessary during diagnostic work-up for establishing the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Case presentation: We present a case of breast tuberculosis diagnosed in a 73 year old woman at our institution. The patient presented with a palpable mass of the right breast with clinical, laboratory and mammographic findings indicative of breast carcinoma. The patient underwent lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. Frozen section of the tumor and the sentinel node revealed "granulomatous inflammation", while gross examination confirmed the diagnosis of tuberculous mastitis. The patient received anti-tuberculosis therapy for six months with no side effects or any further complications.

Conclusion: Breast tuberculosis is an obscure disease often mistaken for carcinoma or pyogenic abscess of the breast, especially if well-defined clinical features are absent. A high index of suspicion is required because the disease can usually be treated conservatively with current antituberculous modalities while surgical intervention is reserved for rare cases only.