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What is mycosis fungoides?

Posted Apr 14 2011 4:47pm
Dr Emily Altman , Board certified dermatologist in NJ s… Edit Bio

1 vote by Jane Huang

Mycosis fungoides is a type of a usually low-grade malignancy of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Mycosis fungoides is also called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. They perform many functions like protecting the person from infections and cancers among other things. When lymphocytes are formed, they have designations as to where in the body their particular place is. There are lymphocytes that are normally present in the skin, since the skin is often the area of first contact between the outside world and the inside of the person. Infections, infestations, allergens and other substances may penetrate the skin.

Normally the lymphocytes that reside in the skin protect the person from these agents. From their formation, these lymphocytes have a homing mechanism that leads them to the skin. The lymphocytes that cause mycosis fungoides also have a homing mechanism that leads them to the skin.

Mycosis fungoides is usually slowly evolving and initially shows up as red, scaly patches that itch or are sometimes asymptomatic. Since it looks so much like eczema, it can be treated as eczema for years before diagnosis is made.

The diagnosis is made by doing several skin biopsies all at the same time and sending them to a pathologist to look for abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) in the skin, particularly in the upper portion of the skin (the epidermis).

Mycosis fungoides in early stages responds well to a number of non-chemotherapy treatments. There is no cure for mycosis fungoides but if diagnosed early and properly, the disease may be kept under control for many, many years.

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