Search Journal-type in search term and press enter
Social Media-Follow Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care on Facebook and Twitter
« Medical Image of the Week: Superior Sulcus Tumor with Neural Invasion | Main | Medical Image of the Week: Spontaneous Pneumothorax in End Stage Fibrotic Lung Disease »

Medical Image of The Week: Urothelial Carcinoma with Pulmonary Metastases Presenting with Shoulder Pain

Figure 1. AP view of the left shoulder demonstrated multiple pulmonary nodules.


Figure 2. Coronal view of chest CT demonstrating innumerable pulmonary nodules with thick walled cavitations.


Figure 3. Axial view of chest CT demonstrating innumerable pulmonary nodules with thick walled cavitations.


A 68 year old man with a past medical history significant only for mild hyperlipidemia and distant cigar smoking presented to this primary physician’s office with a chief complaint of left sided shoulder pain for more than 6 months duration. His only other complaint was a hacking morning cough that was attributed to GERD after resolution with omperazole therapy. He was without any other complaints such as weight loss, fevers, chills, night sweats, shortness of breath, or dyspnea on exertion. His physical exam was without any abnormality. An initial radiograph of the rileft shoudler was obtained which was without any obvious bony abnormality but demonstrated numerous potential pulmonary nodules (Figure 1).  He was then referred to pulmonology for further assessment. A chest CT scan peformed with contrast again demonstrated numerous pulmonary nodules with thick walled central cavitations throughout the lung parenchyma bilaterally (Figures 2 & 3). Additional testing performed included Coccidioides serologies, c-ANCA, p-ANCA, Quantiferon Gold, PSA, and rheumatoid arthritis serology (RF/CCP) all of which were negative. He was taken for a CT guided lung biopsy of one of the nodules and the biopsy result demonstrated a poorly-differentiated carcinoma with focal squamous differential; nuclear “salt and pepper” features; along with immunostaining consistent with poorly differentiated urothelial cell carcinoma. The patient was referred to oncology but refused potential palliative chemotherapy.

The differential diagnoses for cystic and cavitary lung disease is very broad, therefore it is of utmost importance to differentiate between cystic and cavitary diseases. Typically, cystic lung diseases are round parenchymal lucencies with a thin wall, typically <2mm in thickness, whereas cavitary lung disease are round luciencies typically with a wall >4mm in thickness, but overlapp between cystic and cavitary lung disease does exist (1,2). Without evidence or symptomology to suggest malignancy, initial differential diagnosis must include infectious causes of cystic/cavitating lung disease. In regions such as the Southwestern United States where diseases such as Coccidioidomycosis is endemic, this must be included in the differential diagnosis, as does other potential infectious cystic/cavitating lung disease such as M. tuberculosis, Pneumocystis infection, or Klebsiella infection (2). Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis), as well as other rheumatologic conditions must also be included in the initial differential diagnosis. In this case, infectious and rheumatologic testing was negative. Biopsy was then necessary to determine etiology which was consistent with a metastatic urothelial carcinoma. A CT urogram was performed which was without evidence of primary tumor. Literature review suggests that approximately 65% of metastatic urothelial cancers metastasize to the lung, and often form nodules with central necrosing cavitations (3).

Benjamin Jarrett MD, MPH1, Huthayfa Ateeli, MBBS2, Harbhajan Singh, MD2

1Department of Internal Medicine and 2Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

University of Arizona College of Medicine and Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System

Tucson, Arizona USA


  1. Raoof S, Bondalapati P, Vydyula R, et al. Cystic lung diseases: algorithmic approach. Chest. 2016 Oct;150(4):945-65. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Gadkowski LB, Stout JE. Cavitary pulmonary disease. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2008 Apr;21(2):305-33. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Shinagare AB, Fennessy FM, Ramaiya NH, Jagannathan JP, Taplin ME, Van den Abbeele AD. Urothelial cancers of the upper urinary tract: metastatic pattern and its correlation with tumor histopathology and location. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2011 Mar-Apr;35(2):217-22. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

Cite as: Jarrett B, Ateeli H, Singh H. Medical image of the week: urothelial carcinoma with pulmonary metastases presenting with shoulder pain. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(6):315-7. doi: PDF 

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>