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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 98-99
Tuberculous mastitis: Still a diagnostic dilemma

Department of Pathology, Pt. B.D. Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak, India

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Date of Web Publication4-Mar-2011

How to cite this article:
Singh S, Chhabra S, Yadav R, Duhan A. Tuberculous mastitis: Still a diagnostic dilemma. J Global Infect Dis 2011;3:98-9

How to cite this URL:
Singh S, Chhabra S, Yadav R, Duhan A. Tuberculous mastitis: Still a diagnostic dilemma. J Global Infect Dis [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 May 17];3:98-9. Available from:


Breast tuberculosis is a rare form of tuberculosis. In developing countries, where tuberculosis is endemic, the incidence is 0.25-4.5%. [1] In western countries, the reported incidence is less than 1% of breast lesions examined histologically. However, the disease is assuming significance even in the developed countries because of the global spread of AIDS. [2] The clinical diagnosis of tuberculous mastitis is difficult because of nonspecific clinical and radiological findings. [1] The disease is often overlooked or misdiagnosed as carcinoma or pyogenic abscess. [2] We would like to share three cases of tuberculous mastitis diagnosed by fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) over a very short period of two months.

Case 1. A 39-year-old female presented with a 2 Χ 2 cm firm mobile lump in upper outer quadrant of right breast for six months. Clinical examination and ultrasonography suggested the diagnosis of fibroadenoma.

Case 2. A 23-year-old female presented with the complaint of lump in left breast for four months. Local examination revealed 1 Χ 0.8 cm soft, mobile swelling in upper outer quadrant of left breast which was clinically diagnosed as fibroadenoma.

Case 3. A 45-year-old female presented with tender lump in periareolar region of right breast for five months. The lump was irregular and firm to hard. Clinical examination and ultrasonography revealed an irregular mass and suggested the possible diagnosis of carcinoma.

FNA was performed in these patients. All the cases on cytology showed features of necrotizing granulomatous mastitis [Figure 1]. ZN staining was positive in two cases (case 1 and 2). HIV test was nonreactive in all the three patients. No primary site could be ascertained in the patients.
Figure 1: Necrotizing epithelioid cell granulomas in a smear prepared from FNAC breast lump. (Leishman; ×200)

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Primary tuberculous mastitis is extremely uncommon. [1] The reason for low incidence of tuberculous mastitis is because mammary tissue is an inhospitable site for survival and multiplication of Tubercle bacilli as is skeletal muscle and spleen. Although cases have been reported from those aged 6 months to 73 years, yet most cases are 20-40 years old and in active sexual life. [3] It can present as a painless breast mass, generalized breast edema or localized breast abscess with or without axillary involvement. [4] Lumps are mostly misdiagnosed as fibroadenoma, fibroadenosis or malignancy. [2] Radiological imaging modalities like mammography or ultrasonography are unreliable in distinguishing it from carcinoma. [1]

The demonstration of acid fast bacilli on Ziehl Neelson stain or growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis on culture of the FNA specimen remains the gold standard for diagnosis despite 38% yield. [4] FNAC is proving very useful in diagnosis of breast lumps with or without nodes. The presence of epithelioid cell granulomas and caseous necrosis is diagnostic. The demonstration of AFB is not a must. [1] Earlier the therapy used to be exclusively surgical resection of the infected tissue, but now anti-tuberculosis chemotherapy supplemented by limited surgery or aspiration of abscesses is considered as adequate. [3]

Although granulomatous inflammation of the breast is an uncommon entity, it should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a lump in the breast. Fine needle aspiration and cytologic analysis may provide the diagnosis.

   Acknowledgment Top

We would like to acknowledge Dr. Rajnish Kalra, Professor and Dr. Rajeev Sen, Professor and Head for their valuable help in data collection and final reviewing of the script.

   References Top

1.Kaneria MV, Sharbidre P, Burkule D, Shukla A, Somani A, Nabar ST. Bilateral breast tuberculosis: A rare entity. JIACM 2006;7:61-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Tewari M, Shukla HS. Breast tuberculosis: Diagnosis, clinical features and management. Indian J Med Res 2005;122:103-10.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Pal DK. Tuberculosis of breast: A retrospective review of cases. Ind J Tub 1998;45:35-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Gupta PP, Gupta KB, Yadav RK, Agarvval D. Tuberculous mastitis: A review of seven consecutive cases. Ind J Tub 2003;50:47-50.  Back to cited text no. 4

Correspondence Address:
Sunita Singh
Department of Pathology, Pt. B.D. Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-777X.77309

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2008 Journal of Global Infectious Diseases | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
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