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Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology

Monitoring Metastasis and Cachexia in a Patient with Breast Cancer: A Case Study

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Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology 2016:10 83-94

Case report

Published on 11 Sep 2016

DOI: 10.4137/CMO.S40479


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Abstract

Cachexia, a wasting syndrome associated with advanced cancer and metastasis, is rarely documented in breast cancer patients. However, the incidence of cachexia in breast cancer is now thought to be largely underestimated. In our case report of a breast cancer patient with bone metastasis monitored during the course of her treatment, we document the development of cachexia by image analysis in relation to her metastatic burden. Elucidation of the link between metastatic burden and cachexia could unveil a highly specific screening process for metastasis, by assessing true muscle mass loss. Our patient was a 49-year-old premenopausal woman, with metastatic invasive ductal breast carcinoma in the vertebral and iliac bones on presentation, which progressed with new metastases to her hips, thigh bones, and vertebrae. In the two-year period, that is between her diagnosis and death, she lost >10% of her baseline weight. During these two years, we retrospectively identified a decrease in paraspinal muscle (PM) at the third lumbar vertebra followed by a sharp decline in weight. The increased tumor burden over time in metastatic sites was accompanied by a decrease in abdominal muscle and visceral and subcutaneous fat and was followed by the patient's demise. The increasing tumor burden in the patient was correlated with the mass of other tissues to determine the tissue that could best serve as a surrogate marker to cachexia and tumor burden. We noted a strong negative correlation between PM area and metastatic tumor area at the third lumbar vertebral level, with PM loss correlating to increasing tumor burden. The monitoring of PM wasting may serve as a marker, and therefore a prognostic factor, for both cachexia and extent of metastatic disease, especially in breast cancer, where metastasis to bone is frequent. Based on our data and review of the literature in this case study, longitudinal monitoring of cachexia in the selected muscle groups can give clinicians early indications of the extent of cachexia in metastatic breast cancer patients.



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