The lymphatic system plays a vital role in the human body by fighting off harmful microbes in the body. One of the components of the lymphatic system is the lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells responsible for fighting against the pathogens. Lymphocytes are located in different areas across the body where the lymph nodes are present – spleen, arms, thymus, neck, bone marrow, and legs to name a few. These cells can become cancerous and grow uncontrollably, leading to lymphoma. There are two main types of lymphomas, i.e. Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoma of the skin is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that can either affect the T-cells or B-cells, which are the two types of lymphocytes. It is also referred to as cutaneous lymphoma.
What Does Lymphoma Of The Skin Look Like?
Normally, skin lymphomas start out as flat red patches, which may be dry thus causing itchiness. If you have a darker skin tone, the patches may look lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. At different stages of the lymphoma, the appearance of the patches associated with cancer may vary. During the first stage, the flat patches resemble those of other skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis or eczema. As cancer progresses, the affected dry skin may harden and thicken as well or form plaques (raised tumors), which can easily ulcerate. The initial flat red patches increase in growth and become raised, which in turn, can outgrow into nodules or tumors on the skin surface. These patches are normally located on the torso, face, buttocks and in skin folds. In other patients suffering from cutaneous lymphoma, they may exhibit a persistent reddening of the skin, referred to as erythroderma.
Types Of Cutaneous Lymphomas
Lymphoma of the skin can be categorized into four types. That is cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, which starts with the T-cells. There is also cutaneous B-cell lymphoma which starts with the B-cells. The lymphoma associated with the T-cells is the most prominent compared to the lymphoma which affects the B-cells. Mycosis fungoides (MF) is the other common form of cutaneous lymphoma, characterized by red scaly patches or lesions on the skin. It accounts for most of all cases of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas. An advanced form of mycosis fungoides is referred to as Sezary syndrome. In this case, the MF has spread to other body areas such as the lymph nodes and affected internal organs.
Risk Factors Of Skin Lymphoma
The actual known etiology of the skin lymphoma is unclear, however, there are a few risk factors which increase the likelihood of their development. Age and gender are one of the risk factors whereby, individuals above the age of 50 and men respectively are at a higher risk of getting lymphoma of the skin. Also, if you have a weakened immune system, the chances of developing this form of cancer also increases. Furthermore, the lymphocytes are the cells which are majorly affected by cancer.
Symptoms Of Lymphoma Of The Skin
In the early stages of lymphoma of the skin, the patient exhibits the following symptoms:
- Red itchy patches/bumps on the skin surface
- Dry skin which may have lesions that can easily ulcerate
- Swollen lymph nodes
As lymphoma cancer progresses into a more aggressive stage, the patient may experience;
Cutaneous lymphoma is considered a low-grade type of lymphoma which is not as life-threatening as other serious forms of lymphoma. However, it is incurable and chronic. It can affect any part of the body including the lymph nodes, internal organs, peripheral blood, but most commonly, the skin. In most cases of lymphoma, the mycosis fungoides is the most prevalent type. Generally, lymphoma of the skin is characterized by flat-red-scaly patches, which are usually itchy. As the lymphoma progresses into other stages, the patches can develop into plaques, which have lesions that can easily ulcerate, or into tumors – which are bigger than plaques. Since the major characteristics of cutaneous lymphoma are similar to those of other skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis, you should visit a physician who can correctly diagnose your ailment.