Unknown primary nasopharyngeal melanoma presenting as severe recurrent epistaxis and hearing loss following treatment and remission of metastatic disease: A case report and literature review

Int J Surg Case Rep. 2015:10:232-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijscr.2015.03.053. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Introduction: Primary nasopharyngeal melanoma is an exceedingly rare pathology with unclear etiology and oftentimes obscure clinical presentation. Despite improved diagnostic capabilities, these lesions are often diagnosed at an advanced stage and associated prognosis is poor, partly due to high rates of recurrences and metastasis.

Presentation of case: A 74-year-old woman was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma to the liver, of unknown primary. Just prior to the time of diagnosis, she experienced several episodes of severe epistaxis which she managed conservatively. Her symptoms eventually subsided without further medical evaluation. The patient was initially treated with interleukin-2 (IL-2) for her advanced disease, but her cancer progressed. She was then enrolled in a protocol for percutaneous hepatic perfusion (PHP) with melphalan and had complete radiographic resolution of disease, yet her nosebleeds recurred and persisted despite conservative measures. Six years after her initial diagnosis, a nasopharyngoscopy demonstrated a pigmented lesion in the posterior nasopharynx. Surgical resection was performed (pathology consistent with mucosal melanoma) followed by radiation therapy. She has since had complete resolution of bleeding and shows no evidence of cancer.

Discussion: To our knowledge, this is the first report of a diagnosis of primary nasopharyngeal melanoma 6-years following complete remission of metastatic disease. Surgery remains the primary treatment for disease and symptom control in this setting.

Conclusion: Timely diagnosis of nasopharyngeal melanomas remains challenging. Thorough clinical evaluations should be performed in such patients, and attention should be paid to recurrent and persistent symptoms, such as epistaxis and hearing loss. This may allow for earlier detection of primary disease.

Keywords: Head and neck; Melanoma; Metastasis; Mucosal; Nasopharyngeal.