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Better a Broader Diagnosis Than a Misdiagnosis: The Study of a Neoplastic Condition in a Male Individual who Died in Early 20th Century (Coimbra, Portugal)

Authors

  • Carina Marques,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centro de Investigação em Antropologia e Saúde (CIAS), Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal
    • Correspondence to: Centro de Investigação em Antropologia e Saúde (CIAS), Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Apartado 3046, P- 3001 401 Coimbra, Portugal.

      e-mail: anac@ci.uc.pt

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  • Ana Luísa Santos,

    1. Centro de Investigação em Antropologia e Saúde (CIAS), Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal
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  • Eugénia Cunha

    1. Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra and Centro de Ciências Forenses, Portugal
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ABSTRACT

The paleopathological record of neoplastic conditions in the past is considered scarce. The detection of tumours in ancient populations is hindered by the quality and quantity of signs visible on the skeleton, the methodological approach, the preservation of remains, and by difficulties of differential diagnosis. The aims of this paper are to report the extensive and multiple osteolytic lesions observed in an adult male and to discuss the possible etiology of these lesions. The individual, a 71-year-old male who died in 1932, is part of the Coimbra Identified Skeletal Collection. Records indicate that he died of a ‘heart lesion’. The present study used macroscopic, radiological, and computerized tomography examinations to analyse the skeletal remains of the individual number 439. The type and pattern of the lesions detected, which were most prominent on the skull, were compared with both clinical and paleopathological diagnostic criteria for different nosologic groups. The differential diagnosis addresses problems expressed both in clinical and in paleopathological literature with regard to the difficulties in distinguishing metastatic tumours from multiple myeloma. The nature of the lesions represented by this individual precludes an exact diagnosis. Therefore, we employed a broader category, neoplastic condition, instead of choosing a more specific diagnosis that would likely have resulted in a misdiagnosis due to overlapping features on this individual's condition. Further investigations are necessary to establish more replicable indicators and to improve confidence in retrospective diagnosis of these types of conditions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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