As you learn more about Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), you may come across new questions or terms in your research. This list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and definitions may help you understand this rare skin cancer. If you have any additional questions, your or your loved one's care team may be able to provide further information.
Frequently asked questions
What are risk factors for Merkel cell carcinoma?
Risk factors for MCC include sun exposure, a weakened immune system, being older than 50 years of age, being male, or being White.
What is the prognosis for Merkel cell carcinoma?
Disease prognosis depends on individual factors. Your healthcare team may be able to provide information more specific to you or your loved one’s condition.
Where does Merkel cell carcinoma spread to?
MCC typically spreads first to nearby lymph nodes, then may spread to lymph nodes or skin in distant parts of the body, lungs, brain, bones, or other organs.
How rare is Merkel cell carcinoma?
There are approximately 3,000 patients diagnosed with MCC in the U.S. each year.
What are Merkel cell carcinoma symptoms?
MCC typically appears as a single lump that:
- Grows quickly
- Is red or purple in color
- Feels painless
- Develops on sun-exposed skin (especially the head or neck)
- Appears after 50 years of age
If you're concerned, talk to your doctor. Finding MCC early is very important, as it is a progressive skin cancer.
How is Merkel cell carcinoma treated?
Treatment depends on the stage of the disease and other factors, including the location of the tumor. Treatment options may include surgery to remove the lesion, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy if MCC has been diagnosed at a later stage and has spread or has returned after initial treatment.
ZYNYZ is an example of an immunotherapy for adults with MCC that has spread or returned.
|Stands for “computed tomography.” A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures inside of your body.
|Duration of response
|The length of time your tumor responds to treatment.
|A type of treatment used to reduce immune system responses in conditions related to an overactive immune system or to prevent bone marrow or organ transplant rejection.
|A type of treatment that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer. Note: ZYNYZ is an example of an immunotherapy.
|Lymph node biopsy
|A procedure where all or part of a lymph node is removed and examined under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.
|Merkel cell carcinoma
|A rare, aggressive cancer where cancer cells grow in the skin.
|Merkel cell carcinoma staging
|The process of seeing if and where cancer has spread. Early-stage Merkel cell carcinoma has not yet spread to other parts of the body, whereas later-stage MCC has spread. When cancer spreads, it is called “metastasis.”
|Stands for “positron emission tomography.” A procedure during which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner makes a picture of where the glucose is being used in the body. Since cancer cells take up more glucose than normal cells, the pictures are used to find cancer cells in the body.
|The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
|Tumor response is measured via complete response (the disappearance of all signs of cancer) and partial response (a decrease in the size of the tumor or in the extent of cancer in the body).
|A procedure where a small piece of your skin is removed and examined under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.
|An area of abnormal tissue on your skin.