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Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma involving the left sternoclavicular joint mimicking rheumatoid arthritis flare: a case-based review


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting primarily joints and an increased risk of developing malignant lymphomas in RA has been well reported. However, primary lymphoma in a joint in RA patient is rare. We report the case of a 65-year-old man with RA suffering from pain and swelling of left sternoclavicular (SC) joint, which was not relieved by adding low-dose glucocorticoid. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a para-osseous soft tissue swelling around the SC joint and a fracture of proximal clavicle. Histology of the soft tissue demonstrated diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and the patient subsequently underwent R-CHOP (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisolone) chemotherapy. He was successfully treated with six cycles of R-CHOP chemotherapy, with discontinuation of MTX, resulting in a complete response. We performed a literature review and identified nine cases of lymphoma which involved joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This is the first described case of a primary large B-cell lymphoma involving the unilateral SC joint in a patient with RA, which was initially confused with aggravation of RA. Therefore, malignant lymphoma should be considered in the differential diagnosis when a RA patient develops monoarthritis with spontaneous fracture, even without B symptoms.

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We would like to thank Editage (https://www.editage.co.kr) for English language editing.


No specific funding was received from any bodies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors to carry out the work described in this manuscript.

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All listed authors have contributed toward case design and data collection and interpretation. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and take full responsibility for the integrity of the case and literature review.

Correspondence to You-Jung Ha.

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Chung, S.W., Park, E.H., Kang, E.H. et al. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma involving the left sternoclavicular joint mimicking rheumatoid arthritis flare: a case-based review. Rheumatol Int (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00296-020-04528-1

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  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Sternoclavicular joint