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Lymphoma of the Skin: The deadly Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

  • Posted on- Aug 03, 2015
  • 2849 Views

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells and attacks the skin. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is one of several types of lymphoma collectively called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma can cause rash-like skin redness and, sometimes, skin tumours. Initially, the skin patches can look like other common conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Diagnosing skin lymphoma can be difficult and so it is not unusual to have more than one biopsy over a number of weeks or months.

Signs and symptoms of skin lymphoma

Lymphomas of the skin can be seen and felt. They are visible in the form of:

  • Small, pimple-like lesions
  • Flat lesions
  • Thick, raised or lowered lesions
  • Larger lumps or bumps under the skin

In addition to various skin problems, lymphoma of the skin can cause general symptoms, such as:

If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is important to have them checked by an oncologist.

Tests and diagnosis of skin lymphoma

Because this type of lymphoma affects the skin, it is identified quickly. But the diagnoses may be delayed because the symptoms often resemble other, more common skin problems. The diagnosis of skin lymphoma can include:
  • Medical history and physical exam, where your skin doctor will ask when the changes in your skin first appeared. He might be interested in examining you for any other symptoms, like fever or weight loss.
  • A biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor removes a sample of body tissue for viewing under a microscope or other lab tests. A biopsy is needed to diagnose lymphoma of the skin. There are two types of skin biopsies: Punch biopsy and Incisional and excisional skin biopsy.
  • Your oncologist  may perform lymph node biopsies because skin lymphomas often spread to lymph nodes.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to check whether lymphoma has reached the bone marrow.
  • Blood tests to determine how advanced the lymphoma is.
  • Imaging tests use x-rays, sound waves, magnetic fields, or radioactive particles to make pictures of the inside of the body. This helps in identifying suspicious areas that might be cancer.

Available treatments for skin lymphoma

Many skin lymphomas are slow growing, so you may not need treatment straight away. You will have regular checkups with your skin specialist. Your doctor may suggest using a moisturising cream every day and adding an emollient to the bath water to help with skin dryness and relieve mild itching. Further treatment options include:
  • Treatment directly on to the skin is helpful for skin lymphomas. Treatments include steroid creams or gels, and chemotherapy cream.
  • Psoralen ultraviolet light treatment is very helpful for plaques and larger areas of skin lymphomas. Psoralen is a drug that makes your skin very sensitive to ultraviolet light.
  • Low dose of radiation therapy also works well for skin lymphomas. You are only likely to have radiotherapy for small localised plaques or tumours in the skin.
  • Doctors use chemotherapy as tablets or into a vein because it often works well for skin lymphomas.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your skin specialist to help make the decision that best fits your needs.