Mycosis Fungoides: A Rash that Can Be Cancer
Mycosis fungoides is a type of lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes. When the disease becomes active, certain cells in the body's autoimmune system collect in the skin and interact with other cells to produce visible changes in the skin. Those same autoimmune system cells can also travel in the blood to collect in lymph nodes or affect the liver, spleen, lungs, lymph nodes and bone marrow.
Mycosis fungoides can appear as:
- Scaly thin red patches of skin
- Raised and thick skin changes
- Skin nodules
It is not contagious. Researchers do not yet know the cause of mycosis fungoides, but they suspect a combination of issues may spark the disease.
The most effective treatment of mycosis fungoides requires the collaboration of different medical specialists who are familiar with this unusual disease. Those specialists may include dermatologists, dermatopathologists, and medical and radiation oncologists. Treatment will typically combine approaches directed at the skin externally, such as electron beam radiation, and those that affect the skin from within the body. Those therapies techniques may be chemotherapy, oral retinoids, and biologic antibodies.
Mycosis fungoides is often mistaken for common skin conditions such as psoriasis, chronic dermatitis, or chronic fungal infection. A biopsy is required. Other tests are repeated over time to confirm the diagnosis. Those tests may include blood analysis, chest X-ray, and CT or PET scans.
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