Sister Mary Joseph's nodule at a University teaching hospital in northwestern Tanzania: a retrospective review of 34 cases

World J Surg Oncol. 2013 Jul 5;11:151. doi: 10.1186/1477-7819-11-151.


Background: Sister Mary Joseph's nodule is a metastatic tumor deposit in the umbilicus and often represents advanced intra-abdominal malignancy with dismal prognosis. There is a paucity of published data on this subject in our setting. This study was conducted to describe the clinicopathological presentation and treatment outcome of this condition in our environment and highlight challenges associated with the care of these patients, and to proffer solutions for improved outcome.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of histologically confirmed cases of Sister Mary Joseph's nodule seen at Bugando Medical Centre between March 2003 and February 2013. Data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results: A total of 34 patients were enrolled in the study. Males outnumbered females by a ratio of 1.4:1. The vast majority of patients (70.6%) presented with large umbilical nodule > 2 cm in size. The stomach (41.1%) was the most common location of the primary tumor. Adenocarcinoma (88.2%) was the most frequent histopathological type. Most of the primary tumors (52.9%) were poorly differentiated. As the disease was advanced and metastatic in all patients, only palliative therapy was offered. Out of 34 patients, 11 patients died in the hospital giving a mortality rate of 32.4%. Patients were followed up for 24 months. At the end of the follow-up period, 14(60.9%) patients were lost to follow-up and the remaining 9 (39.1%) patients died. Patients survived for a median period of 28 weeks (range, 2 to 64 weeks). The nodule recurred in 6 (26.1%) patients after complete excision.

Conclusion: Sister Mary Joseph's nodule of the umbilicus is not rare in our environment and often represents manifestation of a variety of advanced intra-abdominal malignancies. The majority of the patients present at a late stage and many with distant metastases. The patient's survival is very short leading to a poor outcome. Early detection of primary cancer at an early stage may improve the prognosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sister Mary Joseph's Nodule / mortality*
  • Sister Mary Joseph's Nodule / secondary
  • Sister Mary Joseph's Nodule / therapy
  • Tanzania
  • Umbilicus / pathology*
  • Young Adult