Clinical Case of the Month: A 57-Year-Old Man with an Axillary Mass

J La State Med Soc. 2017 May-Jun;169(3):78-82. Epub 2017 Jun 23.


A 57-year-old man presented to the surgical oncology clinic with a mildly tender mass under his right arm. Four years prior, the patient had a melanoma removed from his right shoulder along with an ipsilateral right axillary sentinel lymph sampling. Computed tomography (CT) scan was negative for metastatic disease at that time. The patient did not undergo completion axillary node dissection and was lost to follow-up. The patient was originally from Australia, did not tan but reported multiple sunburns before age 18. He was of Irish ancestry. He denied weight gain, fever, fatigue, anorexia, or night sweats. The patient had a medical history of atrial fibrillation, hypertension, gout, melanoma, and benign prostatic hypertrophy. His surgical history included an appendectomy and a facial laceration repair. His brother died at 16 years old from leukemia and his mother died from colon cancer. He consumed 3 alcoholic beverages per day and denied tobacco or illicit drug use. On physical exam, the patient's temperature was 98.8° Fahrenheit, heart rate of 73 beats / minute, blood pressure of 121 / 59 mm Hg, respiratory rate of 18 / min. He appeared to be healthy and in no apparent distress. Cardiovascular, respiratory, breast, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and neurological exam were unremarkable. His right axillary lymph node exam revealed a firm mass roughly 2.5 cm tall by 1.5 cm wide. This mass was biopsied and findings were consistent with metastatic melanoma. CT scan revealed small volume mediastinal adenopathy and a 4.5 cm right axillary mass. There was a 4.7 cm lesion within the anterior left lower lobe of the liver and periportal node conglomerate measuring 3.9 cm consistent with metastatic disease (Figure 1). He was negative for the BRAF V600E mutation. The patient was consented for treatment with combination immune checkpoint inhibition with ipilimumab and nivolumab. After two cycles the patient showed good response, but temporarily stopped treatment after complications related to a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. He developed mild pneumonitis felt to be related to nivolumab, and recovered after a short course of glucocorticosteroids. Restaging CT scans were ordered after two cycles of therapy (Figure 2), which showed decrease in the size of the axillary and hepatic metastases. At six months, CT scans showed continued durable response (Figure 3).

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Axilla
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Ipilimumab / therapeutic use
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / drug effects
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy
  • Nivolumab
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab