Development of Active Tuberculosis During Treatment of Head and Neck Carcinoma

A Case Series

Mioko Matsuo


J Med Case Reports. 2019;13(162) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Patients with head and neck carcinoma are considered to be at high risk of developing tuberculosis, since the risk of morbidity due to tuberculosis in these patients is 2.86 to 16 times the risk in the general population.

Case presentation: This case series describes an 83-year-old Japanese man, a 60-year-old Japanese man, and a 69-year-old Japanese man who developed active pulmonary tuberculosis while being treated for head and neck carcinoma. Two had previously developed tuberculosis and were treated for more than 50 years, but no symptoms or imaging findings suggested tuberculosis onset in the patients at initiation of treatment for head and neck carcinoma. Initially, local radiotherapy was performed for all three patients. Chemotherapy was continued for two patients who had pulmonary metastasis since initial consultation. For the other patient, surgery was performed for recurrence. In all three cases, active tuberculosis infection was observed during maintenance chemotherapy or immediately following surgery.

Conclusions: Due to the high risk of developing tuberculosis, the possibility of prophylactic administration of anti-tuberculosis agents to patients with head and neck carcinoma should be investigated, although prophylactic administration is not a cost-effective option for all patients with head and neck carcinoma. However, if tuberculosis onset occurs, it leads to various problems; it has a major impact on not only patients with cancer but also various people in the social environment. In the future, it is essential to consider prophylactic administration in patients requiring long-term maintenance drug therapy, especially in those who are treated at out-patient chemotherapy clinics, where there are several patients with cancer with low disease resistance.