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Mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma

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This page tells you about MALT lymphoma. You can find the following information

 

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Mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma

MALT stands for mucosa associated lymphoid tissue. This means that the lymphoma starts in the mucosa. The mucosa is a moist tissue that lines body organs and cavities including your nose, mouth, lungs, and digestive system. 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.

Treatment for MALT lymphoma

MALT is a low grade form of lymphoma and usually responds well to treatment. You usually have low doses of radiotherapy or surgery, depending on where it is in the body and on how widespread it is.

In 1 in 3 people, when it is diagnosed the MALT has spread to nearby lymph nodes or, less often, to another body organ. Treatment is then usually with chemotherapy tablets.

MALT lymphoma of the stomach

Most cases of MALT lymphoma of the stomach are linked to a chronic stomach infection called Helicobacter pylori. This infection causes symptoms of indigestion and stomach pain. This type of MALT lymphoma is treated with antibiotics. You often don't need any other treatment.

 

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What MALT lymphoma is

MALT stands for mucosa associated lymphoid tissue. This means that the 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. They are most often diagnosed in people in their 60s. But can 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. Similarly, people with thyroid MALT may have had a condition of the thyroid called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

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

 

Treatment for MALT lymphoma

MALT is a low grade form of lymphoma and treatment usually works well. You usually have low doses of radiotherapy to the area of the lymphoma or surgery to remove it. The treatment depends on where the lymphoma is in the body and how widespread it is.

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, usually with chemotherapy tablets.

 

MALT lymphoma of the stomach

Your doctor may call this gastric MALT. 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.

MALT lymphoma of the stomach is treated with antibiotics. This is very successful at shrinking the lymphoma. But we don’t yet know if this is a permanent cure. So your doctor will keep a close eye on you for some years after successful treatment. You will have an endoscopy about 3 to 6 months after the antibiotic treatment has finished. The endoscopy is to make sure the lymphoma has not come back. You may then continue to have regular endoscopies for a while.

 

More about NHL

We have detailed information about non Hodgkin lymphoma treatments in this section.

If you would like more information about any aspect of non Hodgkin lymphoma, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Our non Hodgkin lymphoma organisations page gives details of other people who can provide information about NHL and its treatment. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group. They often have free factsheets and information which they can send to you. There are also books, booklets, CDs and other resources available about non Hodgkin lymphoma. Some of these are free. Look at our NHL reading list for details.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 1 September 2014