A retrospective study of the clinical and endoscopic features of low grade gastric lymphomas of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in 16 patients together with treatment and outcome was undertaken. Immunohistochemical studies of fresh tissue easily distinguished MALT lymphoma from benign reactive lymphoid hyperplasia (pseudolymphoma) and showed that tumour cells had the characteristic phenotype indicative of their origin from MALT. Persistent epigastric pain was the main presenting complaint, and was often associated with acute bleeding, anaemia, or weight loss. Eight patients had a past history of recurrent peptic ulcers or gastritis. The endoscopic appearance suggested malignancy in only half the cases and was compatible with gastritis or a benign peptic ulcer in the remainder. There was extragastric involvement of other mucosal sites in eight patients (mainly the lung, but also the parotid gland and small bowel), but rarely was bone marrow and never the spleen or peripheral lymph nodes affected. Conservative treatment with long term cyclophosphamide was effective in both stage I and stage IV disease, and all the patients are alive after a median follow up of 4.5 years. These findings confirm that low grade gastric MALT lymphomas are usually indolent tumours with non-specific endoscopic aspects and show that dissemination to other mucosal sites was more frequent than previously reported. Monochemotherapy could be an effective alternative treatment to surgery.
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