Epitheliotropic cutaneous lymphoma, also called mycosis fungoides, is a rare skin cancer seen in only 3 to 8 per cent of all canine lymphoma cases. It is a serious type of cancer with a poor prognosis.
Early stages present symptoms similar to inflammatory skin disease, meaning that it can present as multiple conditions including erythema, scaling, pruritis, depigmentation, alopecia, plaques, ulceration and crusting. Advanced stages typically have more skin lesions on the oral, nasal and eye areas. Either way, affected skin areas can be in one area or all over the body.
Compared to other types of lymphoma, this type affects the skin first but can metastasise to lymph nodes and other organs. Compared to other types of skin cancer, this type is particularly rare, requires a great deal of effort to treat and has a poor prognosis. There are many types of malignant skin tumours, and they vary in terms of treatment and prognosis.
Diagnosis must be made by a veterinarian, often by a veterinary dermatologist. Never hesitate to ask your regular veterinarian for a referral to a dermatologist or other specialist for diagnosis and treatment options. Diagnosis must be made by cytology (in which samples of the areas are microscopically evaluated).
Treatment varies depending on the stage and affected areas of the lymphoma. Options include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation.
If the lymphoma is too advanced or has spread to other parts of the body, treatment may not an option or may be limited. Often palliative care, which focuses on easing the symptoms of the disease, is recommended, including medicated shampoos, antibiotics and other medications.
Prognosis is poor; even if this disease is caught and treated early, recurrence is common. On a positive note, epitheliotropic cutaneous lymphoma does have a better prognosis than nonepitheliotropic cutaneous lymphoma.