Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Mycosis Fungoides and the Sézary Syndrome Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Mycosis Fungoides and the Sézary Syndrome

Mycosis fungoides and the Sézary syndrome (MF/SS) are neoplasias of malignant T lymphocytes that usually possess the helper/inducer cell surface phenotype. These kinds of neoplasms initially present as skin involvement and as such have been classified as cutaneous T-cell lymphomas.[1] These types of lymphomas are included in the Revised European-American Lymphoma classification as low grade T-cell lymphomas, which should be distinguished from other T-cell lymphomas that involve the skin, such as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (CD30 positive), peripheral T-cell lymphoma (CD30 negative, with no epidermal involvement), adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (usually with systemic involvement), or subcutaneous panniculitic T-cell lymphoma.[2,3] These histologic types of T-cell lymphomas are discussed in another PDQ summary. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment for more information.) In addition, a number of benign or very indolent conditions can be confused with mycosis fungoides. Consultation with a pathologist who has expertise in distinguishing these conditions is important.[4]

The prognosis of patients with MF/SS is based on the extent of disease at presentation (stage).[5] The presence of lymphadenopathy and involvement of peripheral blood and viscera increase in likelihood with worsening cutaneous involvement and define poor prognostic groups.[6] The median survival following diagnosis varies according to stage. Patients with stage IA disease have a median survival of 20 or more years. The majority of deaths for this group are not caused by, nor are they related to, MF.[7] In contrast, more than 50% of patients with stage III through stage IV disease die of MF, with a median survival of less than 5 years.[5,6,7] A report on 1,798 patients from the SEER database found an increase in second malignancies (standardized incidence ratio of 1.32; 95% confidence interval, 1.15–1.52), especially for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and for myeloma.[8]

Recommended Related to Cancer

Treatment for Extramedullary Plasmacytoma

Standard Treatment Options for Extramedullary Plasmacytoma Standard treatment options for extramedullary plasmacytoma include the following: Radiation therapy to the isolated lesion with fields that cover the regional lymph nodes, if possible.[1,2] In some cases, surgical resection may be considered, but it is usually followed by radiation therapy.[2] If the monoclonal (or myeloma) protein (M protein) persists or reappears, the patient may need further radiation therapy. In...

Read the Treatment for Extramedullary Plasmacytoma article > >

Typically, the natural history of MF is indolent.[9] Symptoms of the disease may present for long periods, an average of 2 to 10 years, as waxing and waning cutaneous eruptions prior to biopsy confirmation. MF/SS is treatable with available topical and/or systemic therapies. Curative modalities, however, have thus far proven elusive, with the possible exception of patients with minimal disease confined to the skin.

Cutaneous disease typically progresses from an eczematous patch/plaque stage covering less than 10% of the body surface (T1) to plaque stage covering 10% or more of the body surface (T2), and finally to tumors (T3) that frequently undergo necrotic ulceration.[4,10] SS is generally felt to be an advanced form of MF with generalized erythroderma (T4) and peripheral blood involvement at presentation. However, there is some disagreement over whether the MF and SS are actually variants of the same disease.[11] Cytologic transformation from a low-grade lymphoma to a high-grade lymphoma sometimes occurs during the course of these diseases and is associated with a poor prognosis.[12,13] A common cause of death during the tumor phase is sepsis from Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus caused by chronic skin infection with staph species and subsequent systemic infections.[10]


  1. Girardi M, Heald PW, Wilson LD: The pathogenesis of mycosis fungoides. N Engl J Med 350 (19): 1978-88, 2004.
  2. Willemze R, Kerl H, Sterry W, et al.: EORTC classification for primary cutaneous lymphomas: a proposal from the Cutaneous Lymphoma Study Group of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer. Blood 90 (1): 354-71, 1997.
  3. Harris NL, Jaffe ES, Stein H, et al.: A revised European-American classification of lymphoid neoplasms: a proposal from the International Lymphoma Study Group. Blood 84 (5): 1361-92, 1994.
  4. Siegel RS, Pandolfino T, Guitart J, et al.: Primary cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: review and current concepts. J Clin Oncol 18 (15): 2908-25, 2000.
  5. Zackheim HS, Amin S, Kashani-Sabet M, et al.: Prognosis in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma by skin stage: long-term survival in 489 patients. J Am Acad Dermatol 40 (3): 418-25, 1999.
  6. de Coninck EC, Kim YH, Varghese A, et al.: Clinical characteristics and outcome of patients with extracutaneous mycosis fungoides. J Clin Oncol 19 (3): 779-84, 2001.
  7. Kim YH, Jensen RA, Watanabe GL, et al.: Clinical stage IA (limited patch and plaque) mycosis fungoides. A long-term outcome analysis. Arch Dermatol 132 (11): 1309-13, 1996.
  8. Huang KP, Weinstock MA, Clarke CA, et al.: Second lymphomas and other malignant neoplasms in patients with mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome: evidence from population-based and clinical cohorts. Arch Dermatol 143 (1): 45-50, 2007.
  9. Diamandidou E, Cohen PR, Kurzrock R: Mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome. Blood 88 (7): 2385-409, 1996.
  10. Lorincz AL: Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (mycosis fungoides) Lancet 347 (9005): 871-6, 1996.
  11. Olsen EA, Rook AH, Zic J, et al.: Sézary syndrome: immunopathogenesis, literature review of therapeutic options, and recommendations for therapy by the United States Cutaneous Lymphoma Consortium (USCLC). J Am Acad Dermatol 64 (2): 352-404, 2011.
  12. Kim YH, Bishop K, Varghese A, et al.: Prognostic factors in erythrodermic mycosis fungoides and the Sézary syndrome. Arch Dermatol 131 (9): 1003-8, 1995.
  13. Arulogun SO, Prince HM, Ng J, et al.: Long-term outcomes of patients with advanced-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and large cell transformation. Blood 112 (8): 3082-7, 2008.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Building a Support System
cancer fighting foods
precancerous lesions slideshow
quit smoking tips
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas