Tuberculosis mimicking cancer-A reminder

Silvio D. Pitlik*, Victor Fainstein, Gerald P. Bodey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The charts of 26 patients who were referred with a presumptive diagnosis of neoplasms and who were ultimately found to have only tuberculosis were reviewed. Twenty-one patients (81 percent) were born in the United States, and only three patients had a history of exposure to tuberculosis. Most patients had few symptoms, and the average duration of symptoms was 2.8 ± 1.5 months. Classic symptoms of tuberculosis, like fever, hemoptysis, and weight loss, were uncommon. Chest roentgenographic abnormalities were present in 62 percent of the patients. Although some of the patients had undergone nondiagnostic biopsy procedures before referral, none had had skin tests for tuberculosis. Underlying conditions were found in eight patients, and alcoholism was the most common. Laboratory abnormalities were rare with the exception of increased platelet counts, which were found in eight patients. The most common form of tuberculosis was pulmonary (14 patients) followed by lymphadenitis (nine patients). Tuberculosis remains an elusive disease even in countries with advanced medical technology. In some cases, its presentation may suggest the presence of malignancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-825
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1984


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