Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is also known as "cutaneous lymphoma" or "lymphoma of the skin." This type of cancer develops in the white blood cells called "T-lymphocytes." These T cells are found in lymph tissue throughout the body, including in the skin. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is typically slow-growing and can develop over the course of many years.
Generally, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is considered a rare disease, with approximately 3,000 new cases reported in the U.S. every year, according to the Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation.
There are two main types of cutaneous lymphoma: mycosis fungoides, which is the most common, and Sezary syndrome, which some experts consider to be an advanced stage of mycosis fungoides.
Sezary syndrome vs. mycosis fungoides
The primary difference between these two types of cutaneous lymphoma is that Sezary syndrome patients have cancerous T cells in their blood as well as their skin.
Symptoms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
The first sign of mycosis fungoides is typically a skin rash. Without treatment, it may become itchy or develop ulcers. Some other signs and symptoms are characteristic of both mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome. Here are a few of them:
- Round patches of skin that may be raised, scaly or itchy
- Tumors that develop on or just underneath the skin
- Patches of skin that are lighter in color than surrounding skin
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Extremely itchy skin with redness covering most of the body (erythroderma)
Additional Sezary syndrome symptoms include:
- Thick, cracked skin on the hands or feet (keratoderma)
- Frequent staph infections
- Changes in hair, nails or eyelids
- Increased susceptibility to feeling cold
In the early stages of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, the symptoms can be similar to eczema, psoriasis and other benign skin conditions. An accurate diagnosis typically requires blood testing and one or more skin biopsies.
Research is ongoing to identify possible causes of cutaneous lymphoma, but no cause has been identified at this time.
Moffitt’s approach to treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a comprehensive and multispecialty approach to the diagnosis and treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Our treatment team comprises experts from all specialties within our Malignant Hematology and Cutaneous Oncology Programs—dermatologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, dermatopathologists, surgical oncologists, social workers, researchers and many other professionals. Our multispecialty team collaborates to develop an individualized treatment plan for each of our patients, tailored to their unique needs and preferences. Therapy varies from patient to patient, but may include:
- Skin-directed therapies:
- Topicals – Creams, lotions, ointments and/or gels are administered to destroy cancer cells.
- Phototherapy – Types of ultraviolet light are used to destroy cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy – High-energy beams of radiation are used to destroy the body’s cancerous cells.
- Immunotherapy – Genetically modified cells or man-made antibodies are introduced to the body to help the patient’s immune system destroy cancer cells or slow their growth.
- Photopheresis – Photoimmune therapy is used to destroy lymphoma cells.
- Chemotherapy – Medications are delivered intravenously or orally to destroy cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplantation – Abnormal cells in the blood and bone marrow are replaced with healthy new stem cells.
- Clinical trials – Studies explore new treatments to fight cancer.
As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt is widely recognized for its robust clinical trials program. This program allows our patients access to many groundbreaking therapies before they are available elsewhere.
For more information about cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, contact Moffitt Cancer Center. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. If you have cancer, your diagnosis is our top priority. We’re committed to connecting new patients with a cancer expert within one day.