Story by: Rebecca Hall on June 27, 2019
Why does a blood cancer start in the skin?
Lymphomas are cancers of the immune system, which generally arise in lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissue. The immune system consists of white blood cells, the spleen, lymph nodes and other areas throughout the body.
“In many ways, our skin can be considered our largest immune organ,” said Jae Jung, M.D., oncologic dermatologist with Norton Cancer Institute. “It is designed to defend constantly against viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. When the special immune cells that reside in the skin become cancerous, it can lead to cutaneous lymphoma, a rare type of skin cancer.”
Often there are signs and symptoms of skin lymphoma that can be seen or felt. A skin exam by a medical provider helps determine the severity of the cancer. Some of the signs that may be seen or felt on the skin include:
Norton Cancer Institute is a leading provider of care for Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
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There are a variety of treatment options for skin lymphoma that may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. These include:
While the signs and symptoms of skin lymphoma may be noticed quickly, they can resemble other conditions; so, diagnosis is done through a skin biopsy, a procedure where a sample of your skin tissue is removed and viewed under a microscope, or other lab tests.
Always discuss unusual skin issues with your doctor.
“The best treatment of cutaneous lymphomas is complex, involving both skin-directed therapies (applied directly to the skin) and systemic therapies (treatment that travels throughout the body),” Dr. Jung said. “Ideally, patients should be treated in a multidisciplinary clinic that includes medical oncology, radiation oncology, dermatology, rehabilitation and social services. Fortunately, most cutaneous lymphomas progress slowly and can be treated conservatively with lasting remissions. Although prognosis for patients with aggressive and widespread disease historically has been very poor, new targeted and immune-directed therapies are extremely promising.”
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