Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma

What is Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma?

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a rare cancer that occurs when lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, grow and multiply uncontrollably and attack the skin. CTCL can cause rash-like patches or bumps on the skin and may spread to other parts of the body. Its most common forms are mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma depend upon how advanced the cancer is. They can include:

  • Dry, red, scaly patches or bumps on the skin
  • Thick, raised patches on the skin
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Skin tumors


To determine if a person has CTCL, a physician will perform a physical examination and ask questions about symptoms. We use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:

Blood test: Blood tests check for certain proteins or cancer cells or if there are too few or too many blood cells that could indicate cancer.

Biopsy: In this test, a skin sample is removed from the affected area for laboratory testing. Testing can tell the physician whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer is present. Testing will also reveal the cancer’s grade and its potential to become aggressive.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of detailed pictures, taken from different angles, are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce pictures of the affected area.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This imaging test uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease in the body.


The exact causes of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma are unknown, but researchers believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to its development.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that can lead to cutaneous T-cell lymphoma include:

Age: The average age of diagnosis is between 50 and 60.

Gender: Men are more likely to develop CTCL than women.

Race: The risk for CTCL is higher for African-Americans.


There is no known way to prevent cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.


Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma prognosis depends upon the patient's age and the extent to which the cancer has spread.

Treatment and Recovery

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma treatment depends on a person’s overall health and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Most people receive a combination of treatments, which can include:

Biological Therapy

These treatments help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.

Blood Stem Cell Transplant

This treatment is also called a bone marrow transplant. The patient’s own healthy bone marrow cells or those from a donor are injected into the bloodstream to replace the diseased cells.


Special drugs designed to kill cancer cells can be given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream.

Extracorporeal Photopheresis

In this treatment, blood cells are exposed to ultraviolet light, which damages cancer cells.


This treatment uses a synthetic version of immune system cells that are designed to help the body boost its natural defenses to fight the cancer.

Light Therapy

The affected skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, which can help destroy the cancer cells and prevent their regeneration.


Special prescription creams and ointments may be used to control redness and itchiness.

Radiation Therapy

High-energy radiation is administered to the affected skin in order to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks.


Complications of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma stem from the depletion of normal blood cells, as well as side effects of treatment, and may include:

Frequent infections: Because cutaneous T-cell lymphoma affects the white blood cells, which fight infection, the immune system may be weakened and the patient may be more prone to infection.

Second cancer: Because treatment can damage healthy cells, a person treated for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is at risk for developing a second cancer.

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