A Mysterious Mass in a Man’s Kidney Points to Cancer. But What Else Could It Be?



I used to be known as to see Albert, a 35-year-old man, whereas he was an inpatient at our hospital. Albert had skilled a bout of hematemesis (vomiting blood) and had been admitted to find out the trigger. Though dramatic in nature, hematemesis is a standard criticism that we gastroenterologists are skilled to judge and deal with. Most sufferers have garden-variety issues, corresponding to abdomen ulcers or esophagitis (irritation within the esophagus from acid reflux disorder), that may result in hematemesis; these troubles are usually simply managed. However not this time.

Albert informed me that he had been feeling poorly for a number of months, with signs that appeared to come back and go. He usually skilled extreme left-sided again ache that will come on out of the blue, depart him in agony for a couple of days, after which all of the sudden disappear. Generally, he would get stomach pains that would depart him doubled over, solely to have them vanish for weeks at a time. This time, he had been at house, feeling advantageous, when all of the sudden he was overcome by stomach cramps and nausea. He ran to the lavatory and retched severely, ultimately citing the blood. Naturally, the episode terrified him. He known as 911 and right here he was.

On the time of our first go to, Albert appeared advantageous. He had been within the hospital for slightly below a day and was feeling like his previous self. He wasn’t taking any of the medicines identified to advertise the formation of abdomen ulcers — over-the-counter anti-inflammatories corresponding to aspirin or ibuprofen are among the many commonest — and he denied ever having reflux signs. His bodily examination and blood checks had been primarily regular. I steered that we schedule an higher endoscopic examination for the subsequent day, which might contain inserting a versatile digital camera into his mouth to judge his esophagus, abdomen and the start of his small bowel, in an effort to search for a supply of blood loss.

Off to the ICU 

Upon arriving on the endoscopy lab the subsequent day, I couldn’t assist however discover that Albert’s identify had been faraway from the schedule of sufferers. I requested our receptionist what had occurred and was informed that Albert had been moved to the intensive care unit; he was too unstable to endure his endoscopic process. Assuming that he had vomited blood once more — recurrent episodes of hematemesis are additionally widespread — I went to the ICU to see him, solely to be informed some startling information by the doctor in cost: Albert had skilled extreme hemoptysis (coughing up blood from his lungs), which had prompted his switch to intensive care. He was at present on a ventilator as he was struggling to get sufficient oxygen on his personal.

This was a putting improvement; hematemesis and hemoptysis are very totally different medical entities, and normally the ailments that result in one don’t result in the opposite. Might Albert have two separate illness processes occurring concurrently?

It was potential, however appeared unlikely. I nonetheless wished to get a take a look at Albert’s esophagus, abdomen and small bowel. The ICU docs additionally wished to get a great take a look at his lungs by way of a unique kind of endoscopy, often called a bronchoscopy. We agreed that we’d each carry out our respective examinations the next day, within the ICU, the place he may very well be monitored carefully. I additionally steered we get a CT scan of Albert’s chest, stomach and pelvis.

That night, I obtained a name from the radiologist on name concerning the CT scan outcomes — by no means a great signal. Albert appeared to have a mass in his left kidney in addition to comparable smaller lesions in his lungs and within the lining of his abdomen. The radiologist informed me that this seemed to be kidney most cancers that had already unfold to many different websites within the physique.

This was clearly very disturbing and ominous information. Nonetheless, it appeared to elucidate Albert’s signs and supply a unifying analysis; cancerous lesions within the abdomen and lungs can and do bleed. I logged on to my pc from house to have a look at the CT scan myself, and it actually seemed to me simply because the radiologist had described. However … I additionally seen that the radiologist additionally reported that Albert had undergone prior surgical elimination of his spleen, a undeniable fact that Albert had not talked about to me once I requested him about his prior medical historical past.


By the point I arrived within the ICU the subsequent day, Albert had been faraway from the ventilator and was respiratory on his personal. He had already been informed the outcomes of his CT scan and was understandably dejected. As we had been setting as much as do his endoscopy and bronchoscopy, I requested him what had occurred to his spleen. “Oh, yeah,” he mentioned, clearly recalling one thing he had not considered in a while, “I used to be in a automotive accident in highschool and my spleen ruptured and needed to be eliminated. I forgot all about it.”

After Albert was sedated, I inserted the endoscope by way of his mouth. His esophagus was regular. I did see a number of raised purple lesions within the lining of his abdomen. I’ve carried out many 1000’s of endoscopic procedures and seen greater than my share of most cancers. However these lesions didn’t appear like most cancers in any respect! I used to be cautiously optimistic. Nonetheless, the lesions had been irregular, so I dutifully biopsied a number of of the worrisome spots. The remainder of his examination was regular. When the pulmonologists seemed in Albert’s lungs with their bronchoscope, they noticed comparable spots. I steered that they biopsy them as effectively, and commenced to marvel about Albert’s lacking spleen. Maybe we had been mistaken about his analysis.

Venting His Spleen

The subsequent day, the pathologist assigned to the case phoned me concerning Albert’s biopsies. He wished to make sure we had biopsied the suitable areas. What he noticed below his microscope didn’t appear like abdomen or lung; they seemed to be biopsies from the spleen. Now we had been getting someplace.

Albert didn’t have most cancers, I concluded: He had splenosis. This can be a uncommon situation the place tissue from a affected person’s personal spleen migrates to different elements of their physique. Trauma to the spleen — within the case of a automotive accident, for instance — may end up in splenic tissue being launched into the stomach and/or the bloodstream. From there, the tissue can take up residence virtually wherever within the physique. How tissue from the spleen is ready to transplant itself just isn’t effectively understood. Splenic lesions might be solitary or a number of, and we weren’t the primary docs to assume a affected person with splenosis had most cancers. Generally the lesions in splenosis are completely asymptomatic, however they’ll trigger bleeding or ache, compress different organs, and even result in seizures in the event that they discover a foothold within the mind.

The therapy for splenosis is to take away or ablate symptomatic lesions. The pulmonologist and I repeated our respective procedures and, utilizing units able to cauterizing tissue, burned off as a lot of the errant splenic tissue as potential. We additionally eliminated the mass in Albert’s kidney; it too was splenic tissue.

All of this was a consequence of a automotive accident that had occurred virtually 20 years in the past. The splenic tissue had been alive in Albert all this time. Why the lung and abdomen lesions determined to bleed at practically the identical time stays a thriller. Albert nonetheless has splenic implants in his physique that may be handled if want be sooner or later, however he was overjoyed along with his remaining analysis. It was actually higher than metastatic most cancers.  

Douglas G. Adler is a professor of drugs on the College of Utah Faculty of Drugs in Salt Lake Metropolis. The instances described in Important Indicators are actual, however names and sure particulars have been modified.


Supply hyperlink