South African Medical Journal

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Prevalence of breast tuberculosis: Retrospective analysis of 65 patients attending a tertiary hospital in Durban, South Africa

DP Ramaema, I Buccimazza, RJ Hift


Background. Breast tuberculosis (BTB) is uncommon, but not rare. Knowledge of the ways in which it can present can prevent unnecessary invasive procedures and delay in diagnosis.
Objectives. To describe the clinical and radiological findings in patients with BTB, including evaluation of current treatment methods.
Methods. We retrospectively analysed 65 patients diagnosed with BTB at Addington and King Edward VIII hospitals, Durban, South Africa, between 2000 and 2013. Demographic, clinical and radiological findings and treatment outcomes were noted.
Results. A total of 11 092 patients underwent breast investigations between 2009 and 2013, with a prevalence of BTB for the period of 0.3% (30 patients). Of the 65 patients diagnosed between 2000 and 2013, 64 were female (98.5%) and one was male (1.5%). The age range was 23 - 69 years (mean 38.5). The most common mammographic pattern was density (39.4%) and the least common a mass (6.1%). Isolated axillary lymphadenitis was found in 12.1%. Abscess was the commonest ultrasound pattern (39.0%). Of the 47 patients with a known history of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), 68.1% (n=32) did not have radiological evidence of previous or concurrent pulmonary TB, nor was there evidence of TB elsewhere. Of 47 patients with known HIV status, 34 were HIV-positive. Fine-needle aspiration cytology had sensitivity of only 28% compared with 94% for histology. Of those treated, 72.7% obtained full resolution following 9 months of TB treatment; 25.0% did not complete treatment, and 2.3% (n=1) died while on treatment. Follow-up data on relapse rates after treatment completion and disease resolution are scanty.
Conclusion. Understanding and being aware of the various presentations of BTB make it possible to treat most patients successfully. 

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