Lymphoma is a type of cancer which starts in the body’s immune system cells. The white blood cells in our body are known as lymphocytes and they protect us from different types of diseases and infections. They are the key factor in making our immune system work in a normal manner. However, if these lymphocytes start behaving abnormally, multiply at a rate which is much faster than they normally should and live for a prolonged period of time, then lymphoma takes place.
There are two types of lymphoma’s namely Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Skin lymphoma is also known as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and is a kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It occurs when there is a mutation of T cells. These malignant T cells reach our skin, result in lesions which start appearing on our skin and change their shape as time passes by.
The disease spreads throughout the body. It starts off as an itchy and irritating rash and goes to the extent of forming a plaque or even a serious tumor in the whole body. Some of the most common symptoms of lymphoma are the formation of lumps in the body, excessive cough and breathlessness, indigestion, diarrhea, pain in bones and abdomen, feeling of dizziness and numbness which is sometimes accompanied by visual and memory problems.
It is strongly advised to start the patient’s treatment with immediate effect as skin lymphoma can cause serious problems for the individual as the disease progresses. The treatment depends on factors like how much of skin is involved, variety of lesions and whether the nodes are involved or not.
Skin Lymphoma Treatments
Electron Beam Therapy
Skin lymphoma is treated effectively with the help of electron beam therapy which is a type of radiation. The superficial layers of the skin get treated through the radiation and this radiation takes care not to enter deep inside the body and affect the other major organs.
When a person suffers from skin lymphoma, a large section of the skin may get affected and needs to be treated. Thus radiation is the best way to cure a person as the bone marrow does not get affected during the entire process.
Care should be taken that this type of a treatment is given to the patient only under experienced professionals who specialize in this work and ensure that no mistakes are made during the radiation. The treatment may continue for many weeks before its starts to show the desired effects and the patient starts getting cured.
Chemotherapy on the Skin
Nitrogen mustard and carmustine are two chemotherapy agents which are commonly used to treat skin lymphoma. They are available in ointment forms and are applied to the skin for many weeks at a stretch. If there is an allergy-like reaction on the skin, it confirms the fact that the drug is doing its work and is effective in treating the problem. It also points out the fact that the patient is being given the right amount of dose.
These agents help to make the disease disappear after the treatment is complete. Patients are advised to continue the maintenance treatment so that the lesions do not reoccur on the skin. It is advisable to get chemotherapy done at a reputed medical institute or hospital under the proper care and supervision of a professional chemotherapist.
UV Light Phototherapy
UV or Ultraviolet light helps to damage the DNA which is found in lymphocytes without damaging the normal skin cells. The normal cells are able to protect themselves from this damage and not get affected.
There are two types of UV lights, namely UV-A and UV-B and they possess different wavelengths. A substance which is known as psoralen is used along with UV-A light and it is called PUVA therapy. Around 70 – 80 percent of the skin lesions get cleared by the UV light and the disease gets controlled and even fully cured at times.
Being a commonly used drug for skin lymphoma, it belongs to a type of drug which is known as retinoids. Targretin is also known as bexarotene. Many types of skin diseases get cured with the help of retinoids and skin lymphomas are one of them.
This drug is available in gel form and should be used once every day for at least two months if the person is suffering from the early stages of skin lymphoma. After two months, inflammation in the skin is seen and the dose gets reduced for the next two months.
After this period is over, the drug is not given anymore and the skin lesions reduce to a great extent. If the disease relapses or has aggravated to a large extent, then oral tablets of this drug may also be prescribed to the patient.
This is a kind of drug which is known as monoclonal antibody. These antibodies aim at one molecule on the cells surface and bind itself to such a receptor which is mainly involved in activating T-cells so that they multiply and become cancerous in nature.
A type of poison is attached to this antibody and it is capable of killing the cell to which it attaches itself to. Thus the T cells which have become cancerous get killed immediately. This is a kind of treatment that is used when most other ways to treat the patient fail miserably.
This is an agent used to cure many types of skin problems and is injected into the layer just below the skin. This type of treatment is also used when other means of treatment fail. It is recommended to use this method in combination with PUVA therapy so that it is more effective.
When the disease reaches an advanced stage, chemotherapy is either given in the vein as infusions or in the form of pills that are to be eaten on a regular basis. Methotrexate is a commonly used pill while many patients are also given chlorambucil or etoposide. Patient’s who do not respond to other types of treatments, generally benefit from these infusions and pills.