Research Article| Volume 60, ISSUE 6, P646-654, June 2007

Extranodal lymphomas presenting as soft tissue sarcomas to a sarcoma service over a two-year period


      Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma usually presents with lymphadenopathy at multiple sites but can also involve any part of the musculoskeletal system. Occasionally the presentation is with a soft tissue mass. The presentation of large, superficial lymphomatous masses is similar both clinically and radiologically to that of soft tissue sarcomas.
      The six cases of lymphoma presenting to the Exeter Sarcoma Service as suspected soft tissue sarcomas, over a two-year period (2002–2004), are presented. We describe the clinical and imaging characteristics of these tumours and their subsequent management.
      Our cases showed variability in presentation. Only one of the six cases presented with pain and one with tenderness. Four of the cases had no lymphadenopathy and the other two had lymphadenopathy restricted to one nodal basin. Overlying soft tissue swelling occurred in four cases and in distal limb swelling beyond the mass in one case. Radiologically, lymphomas are known to be likely to exhibit confluent lymphadenopathy that is rare in patients with soft tissue sarcoma. Confluent lymphadenopathy was demonstrated in only one case of this series of patients. It is thought that lymphomas infiltrate across anatomical fascial planes more readily than sarcomas and in four of our six cases this feature was present.
      Clinical history, examination and MRI are insufficient to differentiate between soft tissue sarcoma and lymphoma and the importance of obtaining a pathological diagnosis prior to surgery is clear. It is crucial to differentiate lymphoma from sarcoma in order to avoid unnecessary excisional procedures in lymphoma patients.


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