What Is The Prognosis For Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma is a skin cancer characterized by uncontrolled and abnormal growth of Merkel cells in the skin. It is a fast-growing cancer. It may develop in the head, neck, trunk arms, and legs. It is represented by a single painless red or purple colored nodule on these areas. It develops more in men than women. Sun-exposure and weak immune system are its main risk factors. It is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Its prognosis is relatively poor in malignant cases.

What Is The Prognosis For Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

What Is The Prognosis For Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

The prognosis of Merkel cell carcinoma is dependent on the age and severity of the condition of the patient. If the case is benign, then the prognosis is good and the survival rate of the patient is also higher. If these cancer cells become malignant and spread to other parts of the body, then, it is severe and the survival rate of the patient may reduce inversely. Most of the cases are diagnosed when a malignancy has already started. If treatment is initiated in such cases, then the growth of cancerous cells in the affected skin areas may be inhibited but there is no effect on the malignant cells. The cases that are diagnosed in early stages have a better prognosis as the 5-year survival rate of the patient improves.(3)

In spite of successful treatment, there is chances of recurrence of Merkel cell carcinoma can happen. The prognosis of such cases is bad. Such patients require regular health check-ups and tests.(2)

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare cancer of the skin that develops in Merkel cells. These cells are found in the top layer of the skin. They are located near the nerve endings whose main function is to receive the touch sensation. It is also known as trabecular cancer. It affects old people after the age of 65 years.(1)

Merkel cell carcinoma develops in sun-exposed areas of the skin. It is seen in the head, neck, trunk, arms or legs. It is an aggressive form of cancer. It can grow rapidly as a firm red or purple colored bump on the skin. It can metastasize quickly in the early stages.(1) It initially spreads to the lymph nodes and neighboring areas. It may spread to the vital organs such as the brain, lungs, heart, liver, and other organs, leading to life-threatening consequences and even death.(3)

The risk factors of Merkel cell carcinoma are –

  • Age above 65 years
  • Male and fair skin
  • Organ transplantation(1)
  • Weak immune system
  • Constant exposure to the sun
  • History of another cancer
  • Drugs weakening the immune system(4)

Merkel cell carcinoma is diagnosed with the help of some tests and procedures. The affected skin is physically examined to evaluate the characteristic appearance of the bump. The sample of the affected skin is sent to the laboratory for microscopic study. This process is called a skin biopsy. Sentinel node biopsy helps to know whether the lymph nodes are also involved. Imaging tests such as MRI scan, CT scan, and X-ray are also advised to know the spread of cancer. In some cases, PET (positron emission tomography) is advised to evaluate the spread of the cancer cells.(5)

Merkel cell carcinoma can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Surgery is helpful in the removal of the bump. Chemotherapy restricts the growth of the cancer cells and radiation therapy targets its metastatic spread.(3)

Conclusion

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer of the skin. It is an aggressive form of cancer that spreads rapidly. Its prognosis is good if it is detected and treated at an early stage. In the malignant stage, the prognosis is poor. If it returns back, the prognosis also becomes poorer.

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