Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a rare type of cancer that begins in white blood cells called T cells (T lymphocytes). These cells normally help your body’s germ-fighting immune system. In cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, the T cells develop abnormalities that make them attack the skin.
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma can cause rash-like skin redness, slightly raised or scaly round patches on the skin, and, sometimes, skin tumors.
Several types of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma exist. The most common type is mycosis fungoides. Sezary syndrome is a less common type that causes skin redness over the entire body. Some types of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, such as mycosis fungoides, progress slowly and others are more aggressive.
The type of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma you have helps determine which treatments are best for you. Treatments can include skin creams, light therapy, radiation therapy and systemic medications, such as chemotherapy.
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is one of several types of lymphoma collectively called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Signs and symptoms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma include:
- Round patches of skin that may be raised or scaly and might be itchy
- Patches of skin that appear lighter in color than surrounding skin
- Lumps that form on the skin and may break open
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Thickening of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- A rash-like skin redness over the entire body that is intensely itchy
The exact cause of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma isn’t known.
In general, cancer begins when cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains instructions that tell a cell what to do. The DNA mutations tell the cells to grow and multiply rapidly, creating many abnormal cells.
In cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, the mutations cause too many abnormal T cells that attack the skin. T cells are part of your immune system, and they normally help your body fight germs. Doctors don’t know why the cells attack the skin.