Skin-Directed Treatments

Skin-Directed Treatments

In many cases, initial treatment of skin lymphoma involves treating the skin tumors directly, while trying to avoid harmful side effects on the rest of the body Skin-directed treatments include:


Surgery may be used to obtain a biopsy sample or, when there are few lesions, to completely remove the lesion(s). It is usually combined with other therapies.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Electron beam radiation is used most often for cutaneous lymphomas. The electrons only penetrate the skin, minimizing side effects to other organs and tissues. The possible side effects include skin irritation (sunburn-like symptoms, itching, dry skin) and fatigue.


Phototherapy uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill cancer cells in the skin. It may be combined with a drug, psoralen, that increases the activity of the UV light. This treatment, called PUVA, is given about three times per week. Potential side effects include nausea (from psoralen), sensitivity to sunlight, and sunburn-like symptoms.

Topical Medicines

Topical medicines, including steroids, chemotherapies, retinoids, and immune therapies, are applied directly to the skin. When applied topically to the skin, the effects are concentrated on the spot where applied minimizing side effects to other areas of the body. Possible side effects may occur in the area where the medicine is applied. The side effects depend on the type of topical therapy and may include thinning of the skin, skin irritations (rashes, itching), bruising easily, and dilated blood vessels.