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Home > Cancers Treated > Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel Cell Carcinoma 

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While Merkel cell carcinoma is still relatively uncommon, the number of cases diagnosed is increasing.

What is Merkel cell carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, aggressive skin cancer that appears to be something more harmless—a cyst or a pimple, for example.

Who develops Merkel cell carcinoma?

People ages 50 and older who are fair-skinned and weren’t regular sunscreen users are at the greatest risk. Men also seem to be much more susceptible than women to Merkel cell carcinoma. Individuals taking anti-rejection medication following a transplant also have a higher risk, as do those with illnesses such as HIV and lymphocytic leukemia.

What are the symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma?

Symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma include a growth that is asymptomatic—no pain or tenderness —and grows quickly. The growth itself can be anywhere from red to violet colored. While the growth can appear anywhere, about half of them appear on the head and neck; the eyelid is another potential site.

How is Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosed?

Merkel cell carcinoma is diagnosed through a thorough physical examination of the skin, as well as a biopsy that removes the growth or a sample of the growth for further analysis. Additional biopsies and imaging tests, such as an X-ray and a CT scan, can help determine if any cancer present has spread.

How is Merkel cell carcinoma treated?

Generally, the first step in treatment is surgery to remove the cancer, often followed by radiation therapy. If the cancer has spread, chemotherapy may also be used.

Valley Hospital is proud to offer the latest treatment options for Merkel cell carcinoma, including minimally invasive surgery. The Blumenthal Cancer Center has board-certified fellowship-trained surgical oncologists who are experts in the surgical procedures needed to treat Merkel cell carcinoma. For more information, call 201-447-8012.

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