Lymphadenopathy in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is a very common feature. However, sudden increase in lymphadenopathy or other symptoms like weight loss should be evaluated for possible metastatic malignancy. We describe a CLL patient with diffuse mediastinal lymphadenopathy who was diagnosed with metastatic bladder cancer without a primary bladder tumor mass on imaging.
A 60-year-old man with a 60 pack-year smoking history, alcoholic cirrhosis, and a 5-year history of stage 1 CLL presented with 3 months of progressive shortness of breath; persistent cough; chills; hemoptysis; and a steady weight loss of 35 lbs. Notably, he had no bladder symptoms. Initial labs showed leukocytosis of 35.8k with a lymphocytic predominance. Screening low-dose chest CT was positive for diffuse mediastinal lymphadenopathy. Subsequent PET/CT revealed numerous hypermetabolic lymph nodes in the neck, mediastinum, left hilum, and right periaortic abdominal region. CT Chest, Abdomen, Pelvis revealed progressive lymphadenopathy as seen in prior imaging, stable pulmonary nodules up to 4 mm in size, and splenomegaly. No distant primary sites, including of the bladder, were identified. Mediastinal lymph node biopsy confirmed metastatic poorly differentiated carcinoma with immunohistochemical staining negative for p40, p63, CK20, TTF-1, Napsin A, CDX2, CA19- 9, Calretinin, and D2-40 and positive for CK7, GATA3, Ber-EP4, and Uroplakin, supporting bladder as primary origin. Urology deferred a cystoscopy given his lack of urinary symptoms and positive biopsy and was started on Carboplatin/Gemcitabine for his metastatic disease. He was ineligible for Cisplatin given his cirrhosis and hearing impairment.
In patients with CLL, new onset mediastinal lymphadenopathy is concerning for disease progression and possible transformation to a diffuse b-cell lymphoma. However, this symptom has a broad differential, including primary lung carcinomas, sarcomas, and metastatic disease. While our patient’s PET/CT and pan-CT failed to identify a distant primary site, maintaining a low clinical suspicion for metastatic disease and doing a thorough work-up was paramount. Only through immunohistochemical staining were we able to diagnosis this patient with urothelial carcinoma.
Biopsy with immunohistochemical staining and maintaining a low suspicion for worsening lymphadenopathy can identify unusually presenting urothelial carcinomas in CLL patients.