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The frequency of intra-orbital metastasis in systemic cancer is a controversial topic. Of all metastatic tumors to the orbit of the eye, breast carcinoma is considered to be the most prevalent. Orbital findings typically present themselves after the diagnosis of the primary tumor, with an average delay of three to six years. In spite of that, this study reports a case in which orbital manifestation was the initial symptom in breast carcinoma diagnosis.
A 66-year-old Italian Caucasian woman presented with a swelling located on the lower orbit of her right eye.
Previous cases report orbital manifestations discovered secondary to breast cancer. This case demonstrates that orbital symptoms may be the primary presentation of the disease. Orbital metastasis originating from breast cancer predicts widespread metastatic disease in other organs. In the presence of an ambiguous infiltrative orbital process, diagnostic examination of the breast is recommended.
The most frequent sites in which breast carcinoma metastases occur are the liver, bone, lungs, skin and brain. The orbit is only associated with the spread of the disease in a small percentage of cases. The frequency of intra-orbital metastasis in systemic cancer is a controversial topic: some authors relate an incidence of up to 30% ; others believe it occurs in approximately 2% to 3% of cases [2,3]. Of all metastatic tumors to the orbit - as reported in several studies [2-5] - breast carcinoma is considered to be the most prevalent primary tumor, calculated as 29% to 70% of all orbital metastases. A recent study by the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science of New Jersey Medical School argues that orbital findings typically present after diagnosis of the primary tumor, with an average delay of three to six years; although occasionally orbital metastasis may become apparent decades after the initial diagnosis of breast cancer . This study reports a case from the Department of Surgery of the University of Genoa in which orbital manifestation was the initial sign in breast carcinoma diagnosis.
Our patient was a 66-year-old Italian Caucasian woman with an insignificant past medical history. She presented with a swelling located on the lower orbit of her right eye, not associated with visual disorders. Computed tomography (CT) of the orbits revealed a thickening of her right peri-orbital soft tissues and a poor cleavage between adipose tissue, optic nerve and musculature, suggesting, on initial observation, differential diagnoses of infiltrative process (lymphoma?) and inflammatory pathology. Laboratory data only revealed an increased alkaline phosphatase (ALP) value (345 U/L). Physical examination showed the presence of a lesion located on the external side of the left breast.At the Breast Unit our patient underwent standard preoperative investigations -mammography, ultrasound examination and fine needle aspiration cytology of the lesion - showing a poorly differentiated breast carcinoma. No neoadjuvant chemotherapy treatment was suggested for our patient, who instead underwent a modified radical mastectomy and a biopsy of the peri-orbital tissue of her upper and lower eyelid.