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Skin cancer types: Relief for skin problems related to cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

Cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a cancer that begins in the skin. For this reason, many patients develop skin problems.

Because skin problems can quickly become serious, a board-certified dermatologist is often part of the team of medical doctors that cares for patients with CTCL.

Skin problems that dermatologists treat

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma can cause excessively dry skin, itch, and serious skin infections, which a dermatologist often treats.

A female dermatologist checking elderly man for skin infections

The skin problems that dermatologists treat, include:

Open wounds: If you have tumors or thick patches (plaques) on your skin, these can break open causing wounds. These open wounds require expert medical care.

A board-certified dermatologist can help by creating a treatment plan that includes proper wound care.

Skin infections: When the cancer covers much of your skin, which can happen if you have Sézary syndrome, skin infections tend to be common. Skin infections also develop when you have open wounds or scratch frequently.

Signs of a skin infection include:

  • Widespread skin redness

  • Hot spots on your skin

  • Painful (burning), red, and swollen skin

  • Pus draining from a wound

  • Oozing sore

Some patients who have advanced CTCL die of their infections. That’s why it’s so important to be under the care of a board-certified dermatologist.

A dermatologist can create a treatment plan to help treat the infection and prevent it from spreading. Treatment will include medication and self-care techniques for bathing and sun protection.

Itchy skin: Itch is often the most bothersome symptom of CTCL. It’s estimated that between 66% and 88% of people who have CTCL are bothered by itch.

In the early stages, you may be able to get relief by applying a creamy moisturizer or ointment.

If you are still bothered by itch and have early-stage CTCL, a dermatologist can help by prescribing medication that you apply to your skin, wet dressings, or an antihistamine.

Once the cancer becomes advanced, treating the cancer is often the only way to relieve the itch.

Dryness and scale: If you notice these on your skin, applying a creamy moisturizer or ointment can help. Dermatologists recommend using a fragrance-free moisturizer. Apply it liberally after bathing and throughout the day.

Relief for dry and scaly skin

For best results, use a fragrance-free creamy moisturizer or ointment, applying it within 3 minutes of bathing.

Close-up of elderly woman's hands applying cream from tube

If you still have dryness and scale, call your dermatologist. A prescription medication that you apply to your skin can be especially helpful for people who have Sézary syndrome. Applying that once or twice a day tends to relieve the problem quickly.

Find a dermatologist

When you have CTCL, skin problems can be serious. Is a board-certified dermatologist part of your medical team? If not, you can find one at: Find a dermatologist

Getty Images

Jawed SI, Myskowski PL, et al. “Primary cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome) Part II. Prognosis, management, and future directions.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2014; 70:223.e1-17.

Yosipovitch G and Kwatra SG. “Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.” In: Living with itch: A patient’s guide.” The Johns Hopkins University Press. United States, 2013: 52-5.