Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer that can be life-threatening. It develops in Merkel cells found in your skin’s outer layer.

Other names for Merkel Cell Carcinoma

  • MCC.

  • Merkel cell cancer.

  • Neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin.

  • Trabecular cancer.

Causes of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

  • UV rays from sun exposure or artificial light sources like tanning beds cause most types of skin cancer, including Merkel cell carcinoma.

  • UV radiation can damage the genetic makeup, or DNA, of skin cells.

  • Eight in 10 people with Merkel cell carcinoma have the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCP).

  • But most people infected with MCP don’t develop Merkel cell carcinoma.

  • This common childhood virus doesn’t cause symptoms, and there isn’t a way to screen for it.

  • Medical experts are still trying to determine how and why the virus causes skin cancer in some people.

Symptoms of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

The lump may be:

  • About the size of a dime and growing quickly.

  • Dome shaped or raised.

  • Firm.

  • Itchy.

  • Similar to a pimple (acne) or insect bite.

  • Skin colored or red, purple or bluish-red.

  • Tender or sore.

Diagnosis of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

  • A dermatologist diagnoses and treats skin diseases like Merkel cell carcinoma.

  • Seeing a skin cancer specialist is important because other conditions like benign (noncancerous) cysts, infected hair follicles (folliculitis) and styes can look similar to Merkel cell carcinoma.

  • Your healthcare provider will perform a full-body skin exam.

  • They may feel for swollen lymph nodes, which can indicate infection or potential cancer spread.

  • You’ll receive a skin biopsy of the tumor to check for cancer cells.

You may get one or more of these tests to determine the cancer stage of Merkel cell carcinoma:

  • CT scan.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

  • Sentinel node biopsy or needle biopsy.

Treatment of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Treatments for Merkel cell carcinoma depend on the cancer stage. Early-stage Merkel cell carcinoma (stages 0 to II ) responds better to treatments than late-stage (stages III and IV) cancers.

Healthcare providers surgically remove Merkel cell carcinoma tumors. Surgical options include:

  • Mohs surgery to remove the tumor and skin layers while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.

  • Wide local excision to remove the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue.

  • Lymph node dissection to surgically remove lymph nodes that have metastatic cancer cells.

diseases disorders cancers merkel-cell-carcinoma

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