Cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a type of cancer of the T-Iymphocytes (white blood cells) that affects the skin and the blood. Occasionally, it also involves the lymph nodes and internal organs. The malignant T-Cells are attracted to the skin and can appear anywhere on the body surface. If it is mild, there will only be a rash, but if it is more severe, thick lesions called tumors can form. In some instances the skin becomes red all over.
There are many types of CTCL that differ in appearance, progression, and treatement. The two main types are mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome. Mycosis Fungoides is the most common type of CTCL that primarily affects the skin. Generally it has a slow course and often remains confined to the skin. Mycosis fungoides has three phases: patch, plaque, and tumor. The patient may have one or all of these phases which can appear anywhere on the skin.
Sezary Syndrome is the advanced form of mycosis fungoides and affects the blood. It consists of red skin, a large number of tumor cells found in the blood (leukemia), and larger than normal lymph nodes. Often referred to as the “red-man disease,” patients with Sezary syndrome often are red from head to toe and complain that their skin is hot, sore, and itchy. There may be intense skin flaking; itching and burning of the skin; loss of hair; thickening of’ the palms, fingernails, and soles; drooping eyelids; loss or eyelashes; and difficulty closing the eyes.