Merkel cell cancer (patient information)
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Merkel cell cancer
Merkel cell cancer On the Web
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D.  ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vamsikrishna Gunnam M.B.B.S 
Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare and highly aggressive skin cancer. Merkel cell carcinoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. When merkel cell carcinoma spreads to the lymph nodes, the average 5-year survival rate for a patient with merkel cell carcinoma is less than 50 percent. Recurrence may occur in up to half of all the patients with merkel cell carcinoma. Merkel cell cancer usually occurs on either the face, head, or neck. Patients with merkel cell carcinoma usually present with a rapid growing, firm, painless, red/violaceous skin lesion. Merkel cell carcinoma usually metastasizes first to regional lymph nodes and then to other organs, and spreads to other parts of the body, especially the liver, lungs, brain and bones. The predominant therapy for merkel cell carcinoma is surgical resection, but chemoradiation may also be required in more advanced disease.
What are the symptoms of Merkel cell cancer?
Rapid growing, painless and small mass that typically located on a sun exposed area of the body
What causes Merkel cell cancer?
Common causes of merkel cell carcinoma include:
- Merkel cell polyomavirus
- Skin tone
- Exposure to sunlight and
- History of immunosuppression.
Who is at highest risk?
- Fair skin people
- HIV positive patients
- Organ transplant patients
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Lymphoproliferative disorders
- Lymph node biopsy
- Cytogenetic and molecular analysis
- Skin biopsy
When to seek urgent medical care?
when patients experience the following:
- Bilateral radiculopathies
- Cauda equina syndrome and
- Altered mental status
- Chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy
- Adjuvant immunotherapy
Where to find medical care for Merkel cell cancer?
Directions to Hospitals Treating Merkel cell cancer
Prevention of Merkel cell cancer
Primary prevention of merkel cell cancer includes avoidance of excessive sun exposure and use of sunscreen.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
- Merkel cell cancer is a highly aggressive tumor with a mortality rate that approaches 30% to 40% within 3 years of diagnosis
- If diagnosed early, merkel cell carcinoma has a good prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of approximately 90%