Abdominal lymphoma occurs when cancerous tumors develop in the lymphatic tissues of the abdomen. Symptoms depend on the type of lymphoma but may include vomiting, nausea, and changes in bowel habits.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphocytes, which are a part of the immune system. Lymphatic tissues help form the lymphatic system and are present throughout the entire body, including in the abdomen.

Abdominal lymphoma can occur when lymphoma originates in the abdomen or as a secondary site of cancer that has metastasized from elsewhere. This can occur during stage 4 lymphoma.

When lymphoma arises from sites other than the lymph nodes, doctors call this extranodal lymphoma. The stomach and small intestine are the most common sites of extranodal lymphoma, making up 80–90% of extranodal lymphoma in Western countries.

This article discusses the symptoms of abdominal lymphoma, how to treat it, and factors that can cause the condition.

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The rapid growth of malignant lymphocytes can cause enlargements in surrounding areas. Therefore, symptoms of lymphoma may vary depending on where this occurs and the stage of the condition.

Symptoms of abdominal lymphoma are often generic and can present in similar ways to other gastric conditions. Some people may not experience any symptoms at the point of diagnosis.

Gastric lymphoma symptoms

Local symptoms of primary gastric lymphoma can include:

Intestinal lymphoma symptoms

Symptoms of intestinal lymphoma include:

Liver lymphoma symptoms

A person with lymphoma of the liver, or hepatic lymphoma, will typically have general symptoms of feeling unwell.

However, some symptoms to be aware of include:

  • vomiting
  • upper abdominal discomfort or pain
  • jaundice
  • nausea

Some rarer symptoms that people experience include acute liver failure and chronic hepatitis. These symptoms occur more often in individuals who develop Burkitt lymphoma, a rare type of fast-growing lymphoma.

Learn the symptoms of stage 4 lymphoma.

Cancers are the result of changes to a person’s DNA. These changes depend on the type of lymphoma a person develops.

There are two types of lymphoma:

Risk factors

Certain traits can increase a person’s risk of developing any type of cancer. Some are manageable, such as avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

Some possible risk factors for abdominal lymphoma include:

  • Infections: Various types of viral and bacterial infections can increase the risk of both types of lymphoma. For example, researchers note how Helicobacter pylori — a bacteria that affects the stomach lining — is involved in the development of certain gastric lymphomas.
  • Age: HL is most common in people under 20 years of age or over 55.
  • Weakened immune system: The risk of developing HL is higher in people who are immunocompromised. For example, a person that takes medications to suppress their immune system after an organ transplant.
  • Autoimmune disease: Some research notes increased risks of NHL in people with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

If a person experiences lumps in their neck or elsewhere, it can indicate lymphoma. Other symptoms include unexplained fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.

A doctor will need to know a person’s medical history, any medications they are taking, and any symptoms they are experiencing.

Various tests help doctors determine if a person has a type of lymphoma.

Blood tests

These can help a doctor identify the quantities of white blood cells, platelets, and lymphocytes.

A doctor may also test for the presence of an infection. This is because certain infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, have links to types of abdominal lymphoma.

Endoscopy and biopsy

A medical professional may perform an endoscopy. This procedure allows them to look inside the gastrointestinal tract for signs of lymphoma. They may also take a biopsy of lymphatic tissue.

Specialists will analyze the sample in a laboratory to determine if cancerous cells are present and, if so, the type of cancer.

Learn about what to expect in a biopsy.

Imaging tests

While a biopsy will determine the type of cancer a person may have, imaging scans can help identify if there are any large sites of cancer cells. These can include:

Treatments will depend on the stage, type, and size of a tumor.

Certain types of lymphoma may not require treatment immediately. These are indolent, or slow-growing lymphomas, such as certain types of NHL. Doctors will continue to monitor people with indolent lymphoma.

Learn more about indolent lymphoma.

If doctors advise treatment, it may include:

  • Antibiotics: For people with gastrointestinal lymphoma, antibiotics may help to eradicate any bacterial infections causing the lymphoma. According to a 2019 review, this can be the only treatment a person needs at the early stages of diagnosis.
  • Radiation: If the cancer is advanced, doctors may use targeted beams of radiation to shrink lymphoma in the abdomen.
  • Chemotherapy: Doctors may use radiation therapy with chemotherapy if the person has an aggressive type of cancer.

Doctors only usually recommend surgery for individuals who do not respond well to radiation or chemotherapy.

The outlook for a person with abdominal lymphoma will depend on the type of lymphoma, the location, and the stage:

Gastric lymphomaTypically, 90% of people who receive a diagnosis of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) gastric lymphoma survive at least 10 years.

If a person has no risk factors, there is a 70% chance that they will not have any related issues within 5 years of treatment.

This can decrease to 29% in people with two risk factors, but it is possible to reduce this by making the necessary changes to their lifestyle.
Hepatic lymphomaEvidence suggests that 87.1% of people with hepatic lymphoma survive at least 5 years, depending on the treatment they receive.

Typically, lymphoma of the liver responds to treatment well, particularly chemotherapy. Some people may develop acute liver failure.

However, approximately 80% of people who receive treatment for hepatic lymphoma make a full recovery.
Intestinal lymphomaA 2021 study found that 48.5% of its participants with intestinal lymphoma, specifically those with B-cell lymphoma, survived 5 years with chemotherapy, or chemotherapy and surgical treatment.

Researchers noted that a low hemoglobin level could be a factor in indicating lower survival rates for intestinal lymphoma.

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 70%, it means that a person with the condition is 70% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition is going to affect them.

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Abdominal lymphoma is a type of extranodal lymphoma that can develop in the lymphatic tissue of the organs in the abdomen. The most common place a person develops this is in their stomach, which is also the type with the most successful treatment regimens.

Genetics, lifestyle factors, and infection can all increase the risk of a person developing abdominal lymphoma. The type, location, and stage of cancer a person has may influence how they respond to their treatment.