What is Cutaneous Lymphoma?

Cutaneous lymphoma is a type of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma involving the lymphocytes within the skin, specifically T-cells and B-Cells. This is a rare type of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma where the tumor growths are seen mostly as numerous lumps beneath the skin's surface and not in just a lymph node.

The lumps formed beneath the skin cutaneous lymphoma are due to a collection of the malignant cells in the skin. In an attempt to purge the system of the mutated cells, the body pushes the clustered malignant cells towards the surface of the skin. The most common type of cutaneous lymphoma is the cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The disease manifests itself in several stages:

* Pre-tumor stage – the skin is presented with raised, red patches that appear on the breasts or buttocks and somewhat mimics the appearance of other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

* Plaque stage – the patches are now irregularly shaped and can appear anywhere in the body. Hair loss in the affected skin area is also noted, and can be permanent if the condition is not treated.

* Tumor stage – the incidence of people progressing to this stag is quite small. The plaques can now form lumps and even ulcerate. Lymph nodes are also affected. The liver, lungs, and spleen is also at risk of being affected by the cutaneous lymphoma, but the cases are quite rare.

* Sezary syndrome – this is when the malignancy has spread and covers a large skin area. The malignant cells have also metastasized in the blood stream. Some patients have no plaques or tumors, but the entire integumentary system may be swollen, red and sore (l'homme rouge). The skin can also manifest desquamation or peeling off of skin.

Cutaneous lymphoma of T-cell origin is treated through a specific or a combination of treatment modalities that can range from topical or local to systemic. PUVA treatment is a combination of psoralen and UVA. After taking psoralen, the patient enters an enclosed room where rays of UVA is applied on the skin. However, extra care must be given for it is known that exposure to UV rays can predispose a person to skin cancer. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy is also done to help cure cutaneous lymphoma.

Cutaneous lymphoma can be hard to deal with for it can cause some severe changes in your appearance. A support group can help you combat the disease both in its physical and psychological aspects. Talk to your friends and family during hard times, and ask your doctor to refer you to a cancer support group to help you understand and cope with the effects of cutaneous lymphoma.