What is CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma?
CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is one of the types of cancer which is rare. It starts with initially affecting the white blood cells and then gradually affects the skin. CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma belongs to one of the categories of lymphoma referred as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Among the various types of cutaneous lymphoma, CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is most common. It causes reddish patches all over the skin which looks very similar to the patches in eczema and chronic dermatitis. In some cases CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma can affect more than just the skin and cause formation of tumor, exfoliation, ulceration accompanied by infections and itching. In the advanced stages CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma begins to extend to lymph nodes, internal organs and peripheral blood. CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is not a life threatening disease and mostly it can be treated but not cured. This type of lymphomas is referred as indolent (chromic) lymphomas.
CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is a chronic illness which makes the skin go red like in case of rashes and sometimes even tumors. It can be treated in variety of ways including light therapy, radiation therapy, skin creams and medications.
Causes & Risk Factors of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
The actual cause of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is still a mystery. However researchers believe that various risk factors can be responsible for CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma including environmental factors (e.g., exposure to certain chemicals, ultraviolet rays, ionizing radiation [carcinogens]; certain bacterial skin infections, viral infections etc.), genetic and immunologic abnormalities, stress, diet etc… individually or in combination.
In case of the individuals affected with any type of cancer counting CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma, the medical condition gets worse with the time because of the abnormalities in the orientation and structure of particular cells like T-lymphocytes. The reason for the abnormalities is still unknown. According to researches and studies so far, the reason of the abnormal changes in the cells can be the related to the abnormalities in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is responsible for carrying the genetic characteristics in an organism. The abnormalities in the DNA or genetic characters are not predefined but spontaneous that directly governs the type of cancer and can happen because of multiple reasons like exposure to certain environmental conditions. There is very slim chance of inheritance in case of cancer.
Symptoms & Stages of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
The signs and symptoms that are caused in an individual suffering from CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma can vary according to many factors like type of lymphoma, duration (stage) of the cancer and even from one person to another.
Among the various types of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma, mycosis fungoides is the most common and is used as the classical representation for CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. It degrades the body slowly and may takes several years to show the symptoms. The symptoms associated with mycosis fungoides can be divided into three stages according to time.
Stage 1 CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: In the early stage of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma, skin can develop red patches or scales like rashes especially that of trunk and buttocks. This is called premyotic phase. The patches are not persistent and can increase or go away spontaneously. The symptoms in this stage are not very specific as they are similar to the symptoms of other common skin disorders like psoriasis. This premyotic phase can vary from few months to years or even decades.
Stage 2 CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: The second stage of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma is referred as myotic stage in which the patches turn into reddish brown bumps or plagues. These plagues can be the start as fresh affecting the new areas or can be worse case of already existing light rashes of the premyotic stage. These plagues can continue to grow larger and combine to form larger plagues affecting any part of the body.
The skin lesions resulting from the first two stages of mycosis fungoides are asymptotic which means they are usually not associated with any other symptoms. It some cases, it can be accompanied by pain and itching. In very rare instances an individual may not sleep comfortably due to severe itching.
Stage 3 CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: In the third stage of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma, the symptoms can grow further causing mushroom shaped tumors in the skin. Some of the tumors can also develop infections. In some individual the symptoms may be limited to the second stage while in others the patches and plagues of the first and second stage respectively get worse into tumors. There are many examples to suggest that a person can develop more than one type of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma concurrently.
Tests to Diagnose CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
Diagnosis of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma takes a combine effort from the hematologists, dermatologists, pathologists and some other experts of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. It includes following procedures and tests:
- A Physical exam is conducted to diagnose CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. This process involves the physical examination of patches on skin. The doctor may also look for any signs of lymph nodes or affect on other organs.
- Blood tests are done to diagnose CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. It is mainly recommended to find out the presence of lymphoma cells in blood. Some other analysis of the blood test like flow cytometry and polymerase chain reaction test are also helpful in understanding the condition.
- Skin biopsies are run to diagnose CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. This process involves the taking a small sample of your skin to find out the occurrence of cancer cells. In some case more than one sample may be required. Some other tests like immunohistochemistry and polymerase chain reaction are necessary to determine the prognosis and determine the right mode of treatment. .
- Imaging tests are supervised in the diagnosis of CTCL or Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma. There are several imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) to find out the presence and extension of cancer cells.