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J Natl Med Assoc. 2006 Dec;98(12):1992-4.

A malignant itch.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong.


We report an unusual presentation of a previously healthy three-year-old Chinese girl with a four-week history of apparently unexplained generalized intense itch. She had no past history of atopy or xerosis. Despite the severe itch, she had only minimal scratch marks on her right gluteal region but no flexural involvement. The girl was treated as having scabies and eczema and with oral antihistamines by various dermatologists without much improvement. She subsequently presented to a regional hospital with right hip pain and fever. Radiological and histopathological investigations confirmed that she had a peripheral T-cell lymphoma. The itch pattern prior to and following chemotherapy, as documented by the DigiTrac wrist-held movement monitor, showed a dramatic reduction of her nocturnal itch. The pattern was also very different from that of atopic dermatitis in that the scratching was of much higher intensity but lower frequency. Intractable pruritus associated with a peripheral T-cell lymphoma has not been previously reported in the pediatric literature. This report serves to alert clinicians of the gold paradigm that in a patient with an unexplained generalized itch, lymphoma and other malignancies must be considered.

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