Body Art Confounding a Case of Breast Cancer

Ochsner J. 2017 Winter;17(4):430-433.


Background: Heavy metals in tattoo ink can be deposited in axillary lymph nodes, mimicking malignant calcifications. High-density foci in axillary lymph nodes can be the sequelae of a benign or malignant process.

Case report: A 34-year-old female presented with left breast discomfort. Mammography showed suspicious left breast calcifications for which biopsy revealed multicentric ductal carcinoma in situ. Imaging also showed high-density foci in her left axillary lymph nodes suspicious for nodal metastases; however, biopsy of the lymph nodes found the high-density foci to be pigment-laden histiocytes from tattoo ink metallic deposits.

Conclusion: High-density foci in axillary lymph nodes on mammography can be evidence of calcifications or metal deposits and can be the manifestation of a benign or malignant process. Thus, this finding may warrant additional diagnostic workup (including mammography, ultrasound, and possibly biopsy) and correlation with clinical history.

Keywords: Breast neoplasms; ink; lymph nodes.

Publication types

  • Case Reports