What is MALT Lymphoma?

MALT lymphoma is a rare B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that typically runs an indolent or slow-growing clinical course.

MALT is an acronym:

  • Mucosa
  • Associated
  • Lymphatic
  • Tissue

MALT tissue is lymphatic tissue that can be found in various areas throughout the body, including the stomach, the lungs, the thyroid, the salivary glands, the intestines and the eyes. These are extranodal sites (meaning not in lymph nodes). Therefore MALT lymphoma is an extranodal lymphoma.

The disease begins when B-cells in lymphoma tissue in these sites mutates.

The most commonly MALT lymphoma-related organ or area is the stomach. MALT lymphoma originating here accounts for as many as two of every three MALT lymphomas. Furthermore, MALT lymphoma has been associated with a number of other related diseases and health conditions, including Sjogren Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Hashimoto Thyroiditis.

Age and Incidence of MALT lymphoma

MALT lymphomas tend to affect older folks, with the majority of people diagnosed with this cancer being at least 60 years old. Of the 67,000 or so non-Hodgkin's lymphomas diagnosed annually, less than 4,000 of them will be diagnosed as MALT lymphomas. It is slightly more common in women than in men.

Symptoms

Most patients who are eventually diagnosed with MALT lymphoma present with:

  • stomach pain
  • indigestion
  • bleeding in the stomach
  • weight loss
  • appetite loss
  • fatigue

Fortunately, these symptoms often bring people to visit a doctor, and as a consequence it is common for the disease to be found in its early stages, before it has had a chance to spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

Treatment

When MALT lymphoma is found in the stomach, it is often attributed to a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, in which case treatment often amounts to a heavy dose of antibiotics.

If MALT lymphoma has begun in other organs, other treatment protocols are necessary:

  • Systemic chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radioimmunotherapy

Each patient's disease is different, and therefore the treatment response will be different with each patient. In general, outcomes tend to be very good when treating MALT lymphomas.

Photo: Pexels

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