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. Doctors may use advanced laboratory tests to analyze your blood in order to better understand your condition, including flow cytometry and polymerase chain reaction testing.
  • Skin biopsies. A pathologist examines a small sample of skin removed during a biopsy to determine whether it contains cancer cells. Sometimes multiple skin biopsies are necessary in order to confirm your diagnosis. Advanced laboratory tests, such as immunohistochemistry and polymerase chain reaction, may be used to help your doctor understand your prognosis and select the most effective treatment.
  • 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, including the extent or stage of your lymphoma. 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 exposing your skin to ultraviolet light. Sometimes a medicine is administered to make the cancer cells more sensitive to light. 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.
  • Stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a matched donor (allogenic stem cell transplant). During a transplant you'll receive chemotherapy drugs to suppress your diseased bone marrow. Then healthy stem cells are infused into your body where they travel to your bones and begin rebuilding your bone marrow.
  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that give you access to the latest treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic

Aug. 08, 2017
References
  1. Mycosis fungoides and the Sezary syndrome treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/mycosis-fungoides-treatment-pdq. Accessed Dec. 28, 2015.
  2. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma facts. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/resource-center/download-or-order-free-publications?language=English&category=Lymphoma. Accessed Dec. 28, 2015.
  3. Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Dec. 30, 2015.