Cutaneous lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that starts in the skin. It’s not considered skin cancer because it originates in the skin’s white blood cells (lymphocytes). White blood cells help fight off infection and disease in the body.
Normally, cells in the body will grow and divide to replace old or damaged cells. This growth is usually precise. Once enough cells are produced to replace the old ones, normal cells stop dividing. Cancerous tumors occur when there is an error and cells continue to grow uncontrollably. With cutaneous lymphomas, white blood cells attack the skin. Cutaneous lymphoma can develop from T-cell white blood cells and B-cell white blood cells in the skin.
Cutaneous lymphoma is treatable but known to reoccur. Successful treatment of cutaneous lymphoma depends on age, stage and location of cancer, and other factors.
What are the symptoms of cutaneous lymphoma?
Signs and symptoms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Round patches of raised, scaly, itchy skin
- Itchy, rash-like skin redness on the entire body
- Nodules (lumps) on the skin that may break open
- Patches of skin lighter in color than surrounding skin
A sign of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma may be a nodule (lump) under the skin that can be skin-colored, pink or purple.
The symptoms of cutaneous lymphoma can be similar to other conditions.
What are the causes of cutaneous lymphoma?
The exact causes of cutaneous lymphoma aren’t known. It usually develops in individuals over 50 years of age. However, it can still be present at a younger age. Cutaneous lymphoma tends to affect more men than women. It also develops more often in individuals with a weakened immune system.
How is cutaneous lymphoma diagnosed?
First, your doctor will learn your and your family’s medical history and perform a physical exam.
Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist). A dermatologist may perform a physical exam and one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests such as CT, CAT, PET, MRI or X-ray
- Dermatoscopy (microscopic lens to see the skin closely)
- Biopsy (removing a tiny piece of tissue for examination)
To learn how severe the cancer may be, your doctor will classify it by stage and grade.
How is cutaneous lymphoma treated?
Cutaneous lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer that can act more like a long-term skin condition. Treatment depends on the type of cutaneous lymphoma and may include:
- Radiation Therapy
- Phototherapy (light therapy)
- Local/skin-directed therapies (creams, ointments, etc)
- Immunotherapy (using your body’s own immune system to fight cancers)
A bone marrow transplant may be a possible treatment option. Also known as a stem cell transplant, a bone marrow transplant involves adding stem cells (young blood cells) into the body to stimulate new bone marrow growth and restore production of healthy blood cells.
Your treatment will depend on age, overall health, cancer stage, cancer size and location, and other factors.