Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells and attacks the skin. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is one of several types of lymphoma collectively called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma can cause rash-like skin redness and, sometimes, skin tumors. Treatments can include skin creams, light therapy, medications and radiation therapy.

Several types of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma exist, including mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome.

Read more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Teamwork. At Mayo Clinic, dermatologists, hematologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and radiologists work as a multidisciplinary team to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Because it is rare, few doctors have ever diagnosed or treated a person with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. However, Mayo Clinic experts have diagnosed and treated many people with this disease.
  • A full range of treatment options to consider. Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. Many treatments exist for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, ranging from skin creams and gels to medications, light therapy and radiation therapy.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis

Dermatologists work with hematologists, pathologists, radiologists and other experts to diagnose cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Tests and procedures used to confirm a diagnosis include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will examine your skin for patchy, scaly regions or solid, raised growths. You will also be examined for signs that your lymph nodes or other organs might be affected.
  • Blood tests. Your blood may be tested to determine if it contains skin lymphoma cells.
  • Skin biopsies. A pathologist examines a small sample of skin removed during a biopsy to determine whether it contains cancer cells. You may need multiple skin biopsies to confirm your diagnosis.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), can help determine if cancer cells have spread to other areas of the body.

Treatment

Many treatments are available for people with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Which treatments are best for you depends on your particular situation. Most people receive a combination of treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

At Mayo Clinic, specialists in dermatology, hematology, pathology, radiology, oncology and radiation oncology work with other experts to devise a plan for your care. Your care team also considers your preferences and goals as it determines what treatment is best for you.

Treatment options may include:

  • Skin creams and ointments. Medicines can be applied to your skin in the form of creams, foams, gels and ointments. Corticosteroids can help control skin redness and itchiness. Chemotherapy and retinoids can be applied to the skin to attack cancer cells.
  • Light therapy. Light therapy involves taking a medicine that makes the cancer cells more sensitive to light. Then your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, causing the cells to die. Healthy cells regenerate quickly, but cancer cells do not. Light therapy can use ultraviolet A light or ultraviolet B light.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses beams of radioactive particles to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma uses electron beams, which target the skin and don't affect internal organs. Electron beam radiation may be directed to a specific area or applied to all of the skin.
  • Medications. Medications used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma include biological therapy medicines that stimulate your immune system to attack cancer cells. Chemotherapy medicines attack quickly growing cells, including cancer cells. Targeted therapy medicines attack cancer cells by targeting the cells' specific vulnerabilities.
  • Exposing blood cells to light. A procedure called extracorporeal photopheresis involves drawing blood from your body and treating it with a photosensitizing medicine. The blood is then exposed to ultraviolet light, which damages the cancer cells. Following this procedure, the blood is returned to your body.
  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that give you access to the latest treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

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Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, experts from different specialties work together to determine the best way to care for each person with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Your treatment team may include specialists in dermatology, hematology/oncology, radiation oncology, and laboratory medicine and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, experts from different specialties work together to determine the best way to care for each person with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Your treatment team may include specialists in dermatology, hematology/oncology, radiation oncology, and laboratory medicine and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, experts from different specialties work together to determine the best way to care for each person with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Your treatment team may include specialists in dermatology, hematology, radiation oncology, and laboratory medicine and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic doctors and scientists are studying improved ways of diagnosing and treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on cutaneous T-cell lymphoma on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Jan. 16, 2013