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MALT lymphoma

This low grade non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) starts in the mucosa which lines some body organs and cavities. Find out more about the symptoms and treatment. 

What it is

MALT stands for mucosa associated lymphoid tissue. Instead of starting in the lymph nodes, MALT lymphoma starts in the mucosa 

The mucosa is the moist tissue that lines some organs and body cavities, including the nose, mouth, lungs, and digestive tract. So MALT lymphoma starts in the body organs and not in the lymph nodes.

These low grade (indolent) lymphomas are most often diagnosed in the stomach. But they can also develop in the lung, thyroid, salivary glands, eye, skin or soft tissues.

MALT lymphoma usually grows slowly. Most people have early stage (localised) MALT lymphoma when they are diagnosed. The outlook is good, even when the lymphoma is quite widespread.

Who gets it

MALT lymphoma is most often diagnosed in people in their 60s. But it can also be found in people in their 20s or 30s.

Many people diagnosed with MALT lymphoma of the salivary gland have had an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome. And people with MALT lymphoma of the thyroid may have had a condition of the thyroid called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Symptoms

Your symptoms depend on where the MALT lymphoma starts.

Indigestion or heartburn are the most common symptoms of MALT lymphoma that starts in the stomach. Some people also lose weight, feel or are sick, and have pain in their belly (abdomen).

Treatment

MALT is a low grade form of lymphoma and treatment usually works well. Your treatment depends on where the lymphoma is in your body and how widespread it is.

You usually have low doses of radiotherapy to the area of the lymphoma. Or you have surgery to remove it. 

In some people, the MALT has spread to nearby lymph nodes or, less often, to another body organ when it is diagnosed. The treatment is then the same as for a low grade follicular lymphoma. You usually have chemotherapy tablets.

MALT lymphoma of the stomach

Most cases of MALT lymphoma of the stomach are linked to a chronic stomach infection caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. This infection causes inflammation of the stomach lining, with symptoms of indigestion and stomach pain.

Your doctor might call lymphoma of the stomach gastric MALT.

Treatment and follow up

MALT lymphoma of the stomach is treated with antibiotics. They are very successful at shrinking the lymphoma. But we don’t yet know if this is a permanent cure. So your doctor keeps a close eye on you for some years after successful treatment.

You have an endoscopy about 3 to 6 months after the antibiotic treatment has finished. This is to make sure the lymphoma has not come back. You might have regular endoscopies for a while after that.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They are happy to help. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
01 Sep 2014
  • Gastric marginal zone lymphoma of MALT type: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
    E Zucca and others
    Annals of Oncology 2013, October 24th Supplement 6, pages 144-8.

     

  • Treatment outcome for gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma according to Helicobacter pylori infection status: a single-center experience.
    K ​Ryu and others
    Gut Liver, 2014 July Volume 8, issue 4, Pages 408-14

  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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