We present the case of a 48-year-old male with a completely unremarkable family, medical, and social history other than a homozygous MTHFR A1298C gene mutation who initially presented with a constellation of symptoms including back pain, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and increased dyspnea on exertion. Computed tomography (CT) of the chest with intravenous (IV) contrast revealed some diffusely scattered small subsegmental pulmonary emboli (Fig. 1A). However, a highly suspicious lesion was also visualized on the sternum as well as the liver which raised concerns for malignancy (Fig. 1A). Thus, a full body bone scintigraphy was obtained which revealed diffuse areas of increased nuclear activity compatible with metastatic disease in the spine, ribs, sternum, right scapula, and possibly the right shoulder (Fig. 2). A thorough physical exam revealed an abnormal area of hardened periareolar tissue. Subsequent excisional breast biopsy revealed the final diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer that was ER/PR-positive, HER-2/neu negative. Additional testing confirmed the cancer to be BRCA1 and BRCA2-negative.
He completed 5 treatments of palliative radiation to the lumbar spine and right shoulder and was placed on Tamoxifen which was discontinued after 1 year due to intolerable side-effects of thromboemboli. He developed multiple pulmonary emboli, deep vein thrombi, splenic vein thrombus, and hepatic vein thrombus. He was started on daily Enoxaparin injections and switched to a regimen consisting of Denosumab, Leuprorelin, and Anastrozole for the next 4 years. Serial positron emission tomography (PET) scans and down-trending tumor markers confirmed that he was responding well to this regimen. Upon 5-year completion of Anastrozole and Leuprorelin, he was then started on Eribulin and has been on this since. Overall, he had an excellent outcome, and we were able to provide him an increased quantity of life while preserving as much quality as possible.
Unfortunately, over the years he began to develop abdominal distention and ascites. Per previous CT images, patient had a relatively healthy liver. However, by year 5 post-diagnosis, he began to develop a nodular appearing liver along with grade I/II ascites requiring outpatient paracentesis as needed. Fluid analysis consistently reveals a yellow amber color, thin consistency, clear, with cytology showing rare, atypical single cells most likely being reactive histiocytes. Cell count with differential revealed total nucleated cell count of 54 cells/uL, minimal red blood cell count of < 2000 cells/uL, and fluid albumin 0.5 gm/dl. Fluid immunohistochemistry was performed for GATA3, ER, calretinin, and WT-1 with adequate controls. The atypical cells were negative for all the aforementioned tests. Additional testing revealed no evidence of hepatitis A, B, or C. Blood chemistry revealed the following: total protein 4.1 g/dL; albumin 2.4 g/dL; total bilirubin 1.4 mg/dL; aspartate aminotransferase (AST) 25 IU/L; alanine aminotransferase (ALT) 18 IU/L; alkaline phosphatase (ALP), 86 IU/L.
The decision was made to drain his ascites as needed and initiate furosemide and spironolactone. Additionally, he was placed on a low sodium diet with fluid restriction of 1.5 L. Over the years he underwent multiple upper endoscopies that revealed esophageal varices and portal hypertensive gastropathy that gradually worsened with time. We continued symptomatic management as needed. Today, he is 8 years post-diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer and 4 years since onset of his ascites and is still relatively doing well overall, but his ascites has progressed to grade III. His Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score has been typically ranging 18–24 with chronic hypoalbuminemia, chronic mild hyponatremia, portal hypertension with occasional variceal bleed requiring banding, and recurrent ascites requiring aggressive paracentesis biweekly with removal of 5–7 L of fluid per session.