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Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer. It usually appears on the head and neck or upper extremities, as a red-purple-brown bump under the skin without an overlying open sore. It generally occurs in patients over the age of 60, however, it has been shown to occur at a younger age in transplant recipients (ie. ~50 years of age).

Treatment of this tumor is determined on an individual basis. The tumor needs to be completely removed by excision. It is possible that your physician will sample lymph nodes in the area of the tumor to assure that the tumor has not spread to the lymph nodes. Radiation therapy may follow. Chemotherapy has been used in the past, but there is no agreement on how well it works in the treatment of this tumor. If the tumor is cut out (excised), 40% of the time it will recur in the same area that it originally appeared. Five years after a Merkel cell carcinoma is diagnosed and treated, only 30-63% of those patients are still living.



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