Merkel Cell Carcinoma

What is Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Merkel Cell Carcinoma is a rare form of skin cancer that is more aggressive and faster spreading than other common forms like melanoma.

Like other forms of skin cancer, this carcinoma is linked to extensive sun exposure over time. Other risk factors include having a weakened immune system by heredity or a disorder like HIV or leukemia. It’s also commonly associated with other forms of cancer, but can appear on its own as well.

What are the Symptoms of Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

The Merkel cell carcinoma first appears as a lump that is slightly reddish nearly anywhere on the body. The lump will grow rapidly and may turn purple, but it will never be painful or even tender to the touch.

Since this type of cancer spreads so quickly, it’s essential to begin treatment at this point. Once the tumors reach maturity, lesions or wounds may form on them. There are usually no other symptoms until the cancer has spread enough to generate more general and widespread complications like pneumonia, fatigue, and vomiting.

How is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treated?

Patients who catch their skin cancer during stage I can expect a five-year survival rate that is over 80%, so it’s essential to have any lumps that appear on sun-exposed skin tested immediately. Even waiting a few days or weeks could make a big difference in your chances of survival after being diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017