Palatal lymphoepitheliomas and a review of head and neck lymphoepitheliomas

Clin Radiol. 1999 May;54(5):289-93. doi: 10.1016/s0009-9260(99)90556-1.


Aim: Lymphoepithelioma is principally a tumour of the nasopharynx with only sporadic cases arising elsewhere in the head and neck. We describe the clinical and imaging features of a group of rare lymphoepitheliomas related to the palate.

Patients and methods: Four patients with lymphoepithelioma of the palate are described. In each case we retrospectively reviewed the clinical records, laboratory results, and imaging which consisted of computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound in all four cases and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in two patients.

Results: All four patients were ethnic Chinese (non-smokers, non-drinkers). All cases were Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) related. Tumour was related to the palate in two cases and extended into the nasal cavity in one patient. The fourth patient had a tumour in the floor of the nasal cavity with invasion of the palate on biopsy but not imaging. Cervical lymphadenopathy was seen in two cases, and the nasopharynx was normal in all the four patients.

Conclusion: Lymphoepitheliomas occur in the region of the palate, where they are also EBV related in southern Chinese. Compared with the keratinizing squamous cell carcinomas, patients with lymphoepitheliomas have a better prognosis and these tumours are not tobacco or alcohol related. They should not be misdiagnosed as metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), particularly since the nasopharynx is invariably normal on imaging and adequate nasopharyngeal biopsy is negative for malignancy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palatal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Palatal Neoplasms / virology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed