What’s leukemia cutis?

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Leukemia cutis is a rare condition where leukemia cells are found in the skin, resulting in abnormal patches or growths. It is a specific cutaneous manifestation of leukemia and is associated with a poor prognosis. Treatment is targeted at the underlying leukemia.

Leukemia cutis is a rare condition in which leukemia cells are found in the skin. The resulting abnormal patches or growths or skin lesions can be a hallmark that indicates that a person has leukemia. Most often, the condition appears at the same time as a diagnosed case of leukemia but, in some cases, the skin lesions may appear before the leukemia is detectable or may be seen after the leukemia has resolved. Leukemia is a term used to describe a group of cancers that affect the bone marrow and blood and are associated with high levels of white blood cells. There is usually no separate treatment for this condition, and therapy is targeted at the underlying leukemia.

While leukemia can be associated with a number of skin conditions, they are most frequently nonspecific that could be caused by a number of diseases, such as the pinpoint purple or red spots known as petechiae. Cutaneous leukemia is what is called a specific cutaneous manifestation of leukemia, as it does not occur in association with other diseases. It can appear as red or pink lumps, raised flattened areas known as plaques, or occasionally flat patches or ulcers. When a lump appears without any signs of leukemia, it is known as a granulocytic sarcoma, and such tumors may show a green coloration. Skin lesions sometimes develop in areas of the body where a previous injury occurred, such as burns or scars.

Most people with this condition have the most common type of chronic leukemia, known as chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The condition also occurs in association with a number of other leukemias, including acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, prolymphocytic leukemia, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. When leukemia skin is found in adults, it means a worse prognosis. In those rare cases where children have congenital leukemia, meaning they were born with the disease, the presence of leukemia cutis does not alter the prognosis.

For people who have leukemia, with or without this condition, treatment will vary based on the specific type of disease and the patient’s overall health. Typically, chemotherapy is given, with different drugs recommended to suit each type of leukemia. Chemotherapy drugs are given through a tube known as a catheter that can be inserted into a large vein in the chest. Unfortunately, even with treatment, the outlook for a person who has leukemia with this complication is often poor, with only a minority surviving more than a year after diagnosis.

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