Cutaneous lymphoma (full name Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma, or CTCL) is one of the many forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells (T-cells, B-cells and Natural Killer Cells) known as Lymphocytes. As given by the name, Cutaneous Lymphoma affects T-cells only. A rare form of lymphoma, it primarily affects fully grown adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old; it is also more commonly diagnosed in males than it is in females.
Two Types of CTCL
There are two types of Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma, and these are:
- Sezary Syndrome – this is the more advanced form of CTCL, where large parts of patient's skin may be scaling, red, and extremely itchy. This is most commonly also associated with swollen lymph nodes, as with most other forms of lymphoma, as well as lymphocytes in the bloodstream.
- Mycosis Fungoides – this is a less aggressive and less advanced form of CTCL which most commonly only affects the patient's skin.
Causes of CTCL
Regrettably, as with the majority of the various forms of lymphoma, research into the cause of CTCL has been largely unsuccessful. To date, it has not been firmly and conclusively linked with any particular cause. As with other forms, it has been confirmed as non-infections and can't be spread from one person to another.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Unlike the majority of lymphoma variations, Cutaneous Lymphoma is not primarily linked with swollen lymph nodes. Instead, it often presents itself (at an early stage) as a skin rash which may appear similar to a common eczema. This will grow into a several red patches of itchy, scaly skin which may, in some cases, be raised. Further, patients may present any number of tumours on the skin which present themselves as small lumps.
Diagnosis, as with other forms of lymphoma, is performed through the removal of a part of the affected area (this is a process known as biopsy) which is then examined through the use of a microscope in order to determine whether or not the cells are indeed cancerous. This is accompanied by a range of other skin, lymph node, and blood tests. None of this is painful, and for the biopsy you will be given a local anaesthetic.
Treatment of CTCL
The best course of action will depend on the stage and type of CTCL from which the patient suffers, and can only be determined by a trained professional upon examination and testing of the patient. A common treatment, particularly during the early stages of the disease, is the application of either a steroid or chemotherapy creams. These are very potent creams that must only be used as prescribed and explained by your doctor.
As with any form of diagnosis and treatment, it is important that you seek medical advice should have reason to believe that you may be suffering from CTCL. Self-diagnosis and treatment, as well as homeopathic treatments, are unsuccessful in the vast majority of cases. Always consult your doctor.