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March 1982, Volume 32, Issue 3

Original Article

Extra-Nodal Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas: A Morphological Study of 23 Patients

Khalid Hassan  ( Al-Nasser Polyclinic, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. )
A.H. Nagi  ( Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore. )
A.Hayee  ( King Edward Medical College, Lahore. )


A morphological study of 23 cases of extra-nodal non-Hodgkin’s lyniphomas is presented. The disease was most prevalent in the second decade (30.4%), followed by fourth and fifth decades (26.1%) and seventh decade of life (13 .1%), respectively. The male: female ratio was 1.1:1. The commonest primary site of lymphoma was bones, followed by pharynx, skin and other organs. Histologically, according to W.H.O.’s classification of lymphomas (1978), lymphoblastic lymphosarcoma was the commonest (65%), followed by reticulosarcoma (18.8%) and lymphocytic lymphosarcoma (8.7%). Burkitt’s lymphosarcoma and Mycosis fungoides were the least common (4.3% each). (JPMA 32:72, 1982).


Although the lymphomas usually arise from lymph nodes, in some instances, they may arise primarily at extranodal sites (Rappaport, 1966; Freeman, 1972; Heilman, 1975). Initial extranodal involvement has been observed in 71 % (Kim, 1977) to 36% (Reddy, 1977) of adult patients of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. According to other investigators, the incidence was 8.7% (Goffinet, 1973), 14% (Lotz, 1976) and 24% (Freeman, 1972). Extranodal presentation is more common in children. Wollern (1976) observed initial extra-nodal lymphoma in 53.5% of childhood patients. Skin is a frequent site of primary extranodal involvement (Kim, 1974; Nordqvist, 1975; Edelsen, 1975). The initial clinical signs of lymphoma may be a testicular mass, especially over the age of 50 years (Hamlin, 1971; Tenasbaum, 1972; Wolley, 1976). Pharynx and gastrointestinal tract are not infrequently involved sites (Al-Saleem, 1970; Him, 1974; Hellman, 1975). Other documented primary extra-nodal sites are breast (Freeman, 1972; Wiseman, 1972), bones (Jones, 1973; Hellman, 1975), spleen, (Montanaro 1976), gall bladder (Van Slyck, 1973), salivary glands (Nime, 1976), tongue, uterus and nose (Freeman, 1972).

Materials and Methods

Selection of Patients: Patients showing the following types of features were selected for biopsy from the site of involvement:
(i) Organomegaly, e.g., of testis, parotid gland, liver and tonsils.
(ii) Masses at different sites, like skin, subcutaneous tissues, bone, nose, pharynx, palate, large intestine, breast, tongue and chest wall.
(iii) Pathological fracture of femur.
(iv) Bleeding per vaginurn (Lymphoma of uterus and cervix).
Processing of Biopsy Material
The biopsy material was fixed in formal saline for 24-48 hours. Bones were decalcified in 8% nitric acid. The tissues were hand-processed through ascending grades of acetone, and cleared in xylene. They were embedded in molten paraffin wax. Blocks were made, and multiple 3-4 micron thick sections were cut. They were stained with Haematoxylin and eosin stains. The sections were examined under light microscope iOxrtholux II).


Age anJ Sex: Age and sex incidence has been shown in figure 1.

The patients presented between 2-1/2 and 75 years of age, with a peak incidence in the second (30.4%) decade of life. Whereas the male: female ratio was 1 . 1:1, above the age of 50 years, this ratio was 1:2’.
Sues of lavolvenseni: The primary sites of presentation have been detailed in table 1.

Bones were the commonest site of involvement (21 .7%). These patients presented with unexplainable anaemia, bone swelling (tibia) or pathological fracture (femur). The second commonest site was pharynx (17.4%). In two patients (8.7%), skin was the primary site of lymphoma. One of these two patients showed mycosis tungoides. Other tissues presenting as primary sites were testis, sub-cutaneous tissue, chest wall, tongue, breast, nose, palate, ethmoid, parotid gland, colon, liver and uterus.
Histological Presentation (Table II)

For the histological typing, W.H.O.’s classification of lymphomas (1978) was followed.
Lymphoblastic lymphosarcoma was the commonest histological variant of extranodal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (65%). On microscopic examination, the tissue showed loss of normal architecture, and was observed to be sheets of lymphoblasts (Fig. 2).

There was no evidence of nuclear cleavage or convolutions.
Reticulosarcoma was observed in 18% of cases. Microscopic examination showed effacement of normal tissue architecture, and infiltration by pleomorphic histiocytes (Fig. 3).

One patient showed lymphoblasts as well; these cells constituted 25% of the cells.
Lymphocytic lymphosarcoma of diffuse type was present in 8.7% of patients. The lymphomatous infiltrate comprised of mature lymphocytes, which were represented in sheets. (Fig. 4).

The biopsy of skin in patient with Mycosis Fungoides showed replacement of the tissue by ‘Mycosis cells’ (Fig. 5, 6).

Patient having Burkitt’s lymphoma showed infiltration by undifferentiated cells, interspersed with histoicytes.


Lymphomas, which are malignancies of the lymphoreticular system (Nobrega, 1973), may arise from extranodal sites as primary lesions (Hellman, 1975). More frequent primary extra-nodal sites are skin, gastrointestinal tract and testes (Heliman, 1975; Nordqvist, 1976; Wolley, 1976). Mycosis tungoides is a variant of lymphoma arising from thymus-derived lymphocytes (T-cells) in the skin Schein, 1976). In tumorous stage, this varient is characterized by extensive infiltration by ‘Mycosis cells’. Parkhill (1968) and Al-Saleem (1970) reported 27 and 55 cases, respectively, of primary non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, partial or complete effacemènt of normal tissue architecture is a persistent feature. in all types of lymphomas (Lotz, 1976).
In the present study, bones were the most commonly involved site (21 .7%). In a total ot five patients showing lymphoma 01 the bone, two presented with unexplained anaemia, and were diagnosed after wedge biopsy of the iliac crest. One patient showed pathological fracture ot a temur, and two showed bony swelling over the tibia and femur.
Pharynx was the second commonest site of primary lymphomatous infiltration (17.4%).
One of these patients, a child ol 2-1/2 years, was diagnosed after biopsy of a nasal polyp. She showed a positive direct Coomb’s test, and was diagnosed to have an associated auto-immune haemolytic anaemia. Third commonest site was skin (8.7%). Testes and large intestine were less commonly affected. One patient, presenting with bleeding per vaginum, was diagnosed to have lymphoblastic lymphosarcoma of the uterus, atter hysterectomy. Burkitt’s lymphosarcoma was diagnosed in a patient to arise trom palate.


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