A Patient's Guide to Understanding Cutaneous Lymphoma - page 10

A Patient’s Guide to Understanding
Cutaneous Lymphoma
2
cancers, lymphomas are now
named for the specific type of
cells which make them. Thus
we have B-cell lymphomas and
T-cell lymphomas. This was
not always true, however.
Historically, the only
diagnostic tool the doctors had
was the microscope. Not much
was known about B-cells and
T-cells and only two kinds of
lymphoma were recognized:
Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL)
and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
(NHL). HL was the first
lymphoma to be identified,
and all others were called
NHL by exclusion. With the
progress in genetics, molecular
biology, and immunology, we
have learned that the two old
classifications actually comprise
more than 67 subtypes of
lymphoma – six primary types of HL and as many as 61 types of NHL.
Now that each type of NHL can be specifically recognized, the distinction
between HL and NHL is much less important. All types of cutaneous
lymphoma, B-cell and T-cell, belong to the NHL family, of which they
represent a very distinct subset.
If one considers all NHLs, B-cell NHLs are far more common than T-cell
NHLs: 85% versus 15%. The reason for this is not known. However, if we
look only at cutaneous lymphomas, the opposite is true: B-cell lymphomas
are far less common than T-cell lymphomas (20-25% versus 75-80%). This
suggests that the development of cutaneous lymphomas is distinct from
that of other lymphomas.
Because the lymphatic system is connected and works together with the
blood and the bone marrow systems, lymphomas are considered blood
cancers, like leukemia and myeloma. Lymphoma is the most common
Lymphatic system diagram from the National Cancer
Institute (NCI) booklet
What You Need To Know
About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Figure 1
Tonsil
Diaphragm
Spleen
Thymus
Lymph
nodes
Lymph
vessels
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