"Occult" is a word that occurs most frequently in mystery novels. For its occasional use in medicine, occult dons an equally sinister meaning.
The occult tumor is an untreated tumor, Robert P. Barden, MD, ScD, reminded the American Roentgen Ray Society sessions in San Francisco.
But over the past ten years, clinicians have begun to note systemic or "para-endocrine" symptoms which may precede the recognized overt signs of malignancy.
All patients with Cushing's disease, dermatomyositis, thrombocytosis, and similar complaints do not have incipient cancer, said Dr. Barden. "By the same token, the radiologist should think of an occult tumor when examining a patient with one of these syndromes."
The Philadelphia clinician, who is director of radiology at Chestnut Hill Hospital, mentioned several cases in which para-endocrine syndromes were associated with tumors of the lung.