Merkel Cell Carcinoma is a rare skin cancer that develops on the top layer of the skin. Merkel cells are highly aggressive and have the ability to metastasize at very early stages. Due to these characteristics, Dr. Mejia and Ashley try to convey to all their patients the importance of coming in for a skin check at any sign of a new growth on the skin. Merkel cells often appear as a single painless bump on the skin, usually in sun-exposed areas. This bump is often fast growing, firm, and may appear red or violet in color.
What causes it?
Merkel cells, like most skin cancers, develop in sun exposed areas. Common risk factors for developing these types of skin cancers are exposure to a lot of natural or artificial light throughout a lifetime, weakened immune systems due to disease or prescribed medications, and a history of other types of cancers.
How is it treated?
Merkel cell is unlike most other skin cancers because of its ability to affect surrounding tissue at a rapid rate. Also unlike other skin cancers, the rate of recurrence in local affected areas is relatively high after surgical excision. Due to this, radiation is often a practical approach to treating merkel cell carcinomas. It is often recommended that patients also receive a lymph node biopsy after being diagnosed with this type of skin cancer. This biopsy will ensure that the tumor has not metastasized.
In the event that a merkel cell carcinoma has spread distantly from the biopsied region, patients may be treated with chemotherapy. It is imperative that patients come in whenever a new spot is recognized in order to ensure the most effective treatment possible.