Mycosis fungoides is a rare cancerous condition of the skin that is marked by an abnormal accumulation of T cells within the skin. The condition is limited to skin and has a slow and gradual progress rarely spread to other organs. Its etiology is unknown. It is represented by symptoms like rash, patches, plaques, tumors, or ulcers with intense itchiness and scaling. It is a disfiguring disease and can threaten life in its advanced stages. Its diagnosis is not easy. It can be treated but a reliable cure is not found yet. There are remissions of the condition in spite of the treatment.
Is Mycosis Fungoides Life Threatening?
Mycosis fungoides is an uncommon skin cancer that has a slow and gradual course. It is also known as Alibert-Bazin syndrome. It is a chronic and malignant ailment of the skin, in which T cells from the blood proliferate into the skin. Mycosis fungoides is usually not a life threatening ailment, especially in the initial stages. Individuals at any age can develop this disease, but it is more common in 40-60 years old people. It accounts for about 2 % of all lymphomas.
People have a good survival rate as compared to other lymphomas after its diagnosis. Mycosis fungoides exact cause is not known. It is a disfiguring skin cancer that may threaten life in its advanced stages. It is not contagious. The course of the disease is unpredictable in any individual.
The predominant symptoms of mycosis fungoides are red rashes or patches on the skin with intense itching and scaling. It can develop in any part of the body especially in the areas covered by clothes, protected from sunlight. It has remissions and relapses even after treatment.
It develops in four stages on the skin which may take years to show its manifestations.
First Stage- Mycosis fungoides begins with the appearance of red itchy rash over the skin which is covered and is not exposed to the sunlight. They are flat and smooth in this stage. It may end in months or years.
Second Stage- in the second stage of mycosis fungoides, these rashes turn into thin red patches.
Third Stage- patches develop into hard plaques and small raised bumps. They are also red and itchy.
Fourth Stage- In this mycosis fungoides stage, red plaques turn into ulcer or tumors like mushrooms. These skin tumors are raised nodules that may or may not form sores or turn into ulcers. In this phase, the tumors may break and discharge fluid. The affected areas are painful and may catch infections.
These manifestations may be limited to a particular area of skin or may spread to the skin of the whole body. It has a slow and gradual course which takes years to manifest. It resembles eczema, psoriasis or an allergic reaction.
In the advanced stage of mycosis fungoides, the abnormal number of T cells may proliferate to lymph nodes and other internal organs. This stage is highly fatal and can be life-threatening.
Its diagnosis is very difficult and confusing for the doctors as it resembles other skin ailments. Skin biopsy is only a confirmatory test for this disease. However, several skin biopsies are needed for this.
There is no cure for mycosis fungoides. It can be treated but still, it has remissions. It can be managed with
- Local therapy with corticosteroid creams, gels, and ointments.
- Localized steroidal injections
- Radiotherapy or phototherapy by application of UV rays or radioactive rays
Many scientists are working to find out a definite cure for this condition. Remission and relapse of this disease are quite common. Its prognosis depends on the phase of the skin affections and duration after its occurrence.
Mycosis fungoides is a rare skin cancer that manifests itself through localized red rashes, patches, plaques or tumors. T cells are mature malignant cells that appear on the skin and can spread to lymph nodes and other internal organs. In the advanced stages, the prognosis of the disease gets worse and can be life-threatening.