Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 
  Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Users Online: 721  

   Table of Contents      
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 413-415

Serendipitous actinomycosis infection mimicking malignant lesion in carcinoma of unknown primary

1 Department of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pathology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission02-Dec-2018
Date of Acceptance15-Dec-2018
Date of Web Publication18-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Archi Agrawal
Department of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Tata Memorial Hospital, E. Borges Road, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

DOI: 10.4103/wjnm.WJNM_108_18

PMID: 31933559

Rights and Permissions

Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection caused by Actinomyces species that are commensal in the human oral cavity, digestive tract, and genital tract. The present case highlights actinomycosis of the hypopharynx, mimicking malignancy in18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography-computed tomography.

Keywords: Actinomycosis of hypopharynx, carcinoma of unknown primary, false positive, head and neck malignancy, positron emission tomography-contrast enhanced computed tomography

How to cite this article:
Choudhury S, Agrawal A, Rane S, Rangarajan V. Serendipitous actinomycosis infection mimicking malignant lesion in carcinoma of unknown primary. World J Nucl Med 2019;18:413-5

How to cite this URL:
Choudhury S, Agrawal A, Rane S, Rangarajan V. Serendipitous actinomycosis infection mimicking malignant lesion in carcinoma of unknown primary. World J Nucl Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Jan 26];18:413-5. Available from: http://www.wjnm.org/text.asp?2019/18/4/413/271123

   Introduction Top

Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection caused by Actinomyces species, a type of filamentous, Gram-positive, nonacid-fast, anaerobic-to-microaerophilic bacteria, which are commensals in the human oral cavity, digestive tract, and genital tract.[1] Cervicofacial actinomycosis is the most common type (about 60%) followed by thoracic actinomycosis (15%–20%).[1]18 F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is a tracer widely used for imaging malignancy; however, it also localizes in the sites of infection and inflammation. Here, we describe a rare occurrence of FDG-positive actinomycotic lesion mimicking malignancy in a known case of carcinoma of unknown primary.

   Case Report Top

A 50-year-old man presented with progressive bilateral neck swelling of 3 months. Biopsy from right level V node revealed metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. Whole-body FDG positron emission tomography-contrast enhanced computed tomography (PET-CECT) was done but could not detect a primary site of malignancy. The patient was treated with bilateral modified neck dissection, followed by adjuvant concurrent chemo-radiotherapy. Whole-body FDG PET-CECT was done 12 weeks after the completion of radiotherapy for response evaluation. It showed hypermetabolic soft-tissue thickening involving the right pyriform fossa (PFS) with maximum standard uptake value of 9.01 [Arrows in [Figure 1]a-c]. This appeared suspicious for a malignant etiology. Direct laryngoscopic examination revealed mucosal bulge in the right PFS. Subsequent histopathology revealed ulcerated squamous mucosa with necrosis and gram-positive actinomycotic colonies with abundant sulfur granules, with no evidence of malignancy [Figure 1]d, [Figure 1]e, [Figure 1]f, [Figure 1]g. The patient was put on anti-chondronecrosis treatment afterward.
Figure 1: Panel of maximum intensity projection and transaxial positron emission tomography images show focally increased uptake in the right neck region (indicated with blue arrows in images a and b, respectively). Fused positron emission tomography-computed tomography image localizes the uptake in right pyriform fossa (yellow arrow in c). Photomicrographs of biopsy from lesion showing a necroinflammatory tissue (d), with an ulcerated squamous mucosa (e) and abundant bacterial colonies with sculpture granules (f) (H and E stain). In Gram stain, the bacteria are filamentous and are gram-positive (g)

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

Actinomycosis is a chronic granulomatous infection that can often present as a mass-like lesion and mimic malignancy.[2] With improving oral hygiene, the actinomycosis incidence is going down in developed countries, in developing countries; however, it still poses a problem.[3] Most of the literature on actinomycosis simulating malignancy are case reports of pulmonary actinomycosis.[4],[5],[6] Rarer still is literature describing FDG PET/CT findings of actinomycotic infection. We could find only two retrospective studies of small number of patients that tried to evaluate the role of FDG PET/CT in pulmonary actinomycosis. Their findings indicate that FDG PET/CT is of limited value in differentiating actinomycosis from malignancy.[2],[7] FDG concentrating actinomycosis of other organs can also easily be confused with malignant lesions as evidenced by the hand full of case reports published.[8],[9],[10] Actinomycosis of head and neck region mimicking malignant tumor has also been described in some case reports;[8],[9],[10] however, we could not find any case reports describing FDG PET CT findings of actinomycosis of the hypopharynx. Our case report is unique in that regard. In conclusion, such FDG-avid lesions pose quite a diagnostic challenge in a known or suspected case of malignancy and can easily confuse the clinician and should always be correlated with a proper histopathological and microbiological evaluation.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Valour F, Sénéchal A, Dupieux C, Karsenty J, Lustig S, Breton P, et al. Actinomycosis: Etiology, clinical features, diagnosis, treatment, and management. Infect Drug Resist 2014;7:183-97.  Back to cited text no. 1
Sun XF, Wang P, Liu HR, Shi JH. A retrospective study of pulmonary actinomycosis in a single institution in China. Chin Med J (Engl) 2015;128:1607-10.  Back to cited text no. 2
Wong VK, Turmezei TD, Weston VC. Actinomycosis. BMJ 2011;343:d6099.  Back to cited text no. 3
Qiu L, Lan L, Feng Y, Huang Z, Chen Y. Pulmonary actinomycosis imitating lung cancer on (18)F-FDG PET/CT: A case report and literature review. Korean J Radiol 2015;16:1262-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Nagao M, Fukuda A, Matsumura T, Kimura T, Seno H. Pulmonary actinomycosis mimicking a lung metastasis from esophageal cancer; a case report. BMC Pulm Med 2018;18:39.  Back to cited text no. 5
Weisshaupt C, Hitz F, Albrich WC, Omlin A. Pulmonary actinomycosis and Hodgkin's disease: When FDG-PET may be misleading. BMJ Case Rep 2014;2014. pii: bcr2014206034.  Back to cited text no. 6
Choi H, Lee H, Jeong SH, Um SW, Kown OJ, Kim H, et al. Pulmonary actinomycosis mimicking lung cancer on positron emission tomography. Ann Thorac Med 2017;12:121-4.  Back to cited text no. 7
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Mok GS, Choi FP, Chu WC. Actinomycosis imitating parotid cancer with metastatic lymph nodes in FDG PET/CT. Clin Nucl Med 2011;36:309-10.  Back to cited text no. 8
Singla S, Singh H, Mukherjee A, Karunanithi S, Bal C, Kumar R, et al. Cervical and thoracic actinomycosis on (18) F-FDG PET/CT. Clin Nucl Med 2014;39:623-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
Yoshihama K, Kato Y, Baba Y. Vocal cord actinomycosis mimicking a laryngeal tumor. Case Rep Otolaryngol 2013;2013:361986.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Figure 1]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
     Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded80    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal