Cutaneous lymphoma, also called skin lymphoma, is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the skin. It is a cancer of the lymphocytes (white blood cells), and there are two sub-types: B-lymphocyte (B-cell) cutaneous lymphoma and T-lymphocytes (T-cell) cutaneous lymphoma. Cutaneous lymphoma is sometimes incorrectly called a skin cancer because it is a cancer and it affects the skin. However, “skin cancer” refers to cancers that develop from skin cells (epidermal cells or melanocytes), and cutaneous lymphoma actually develops from blood cells.

Cutaneous Lymphoma Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cutaneous lymphoma symptoms may vary, but generally include:

  • raised, rash-like or itchy patches of skin
  • lumps on the skin
  • swollen lymph nodes

Because cutaneous lymphoma affects the skin, it is usually noticed more quickly than other types of lymphoma. However, it often is initially misdiagnosed as another type of skin problem. Ultimately, the only way to diagnose cutaneous lymphoma is to do a skin biopsy and lymph node biopsy – to remove skin or lymph tissue and send it to a pathologist to review under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

Cutaneous Lymphoma Treatment

Cutaneous lymphoma treatments may vary and are based on the sub-type of cutaneous lymphoma, its location and how far it has spread in the body. Most cutaneous lymphomas are indolent lymphomas – chronic conditions that are treatable, but not curable and usually not life-threatening.

Cutaneous lymphoma treatments may include:
  • Photodynamic therapy – the use of medications, called photosensitizing agents, and light to kill cancer cells
  • Topical medications – these could include topical chemotherapy, corticosteroid ointments or injections, topical retinoids, or imiquimod
  • Local radiation treatments – only if there is only one or a few lesions

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