Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treated by Board Certified Dermatologists in Baltimore

Dermatology at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

The dermatologists at Mercy Medical Center, along with colleagues of The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center at Mercy, offer complete and comprehensive care for a variety of non-melanoma skin cancers, including Merkel cell carcinoma.

About the Condition

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. It begins in the Merkel cells found at the base of the outermost layer of your skin (epidermis). Merkel cells are connected to the nerve endings in the skin that are responsible for the sense of touch.

The exact cause of Merkel cell carcinoma is unclear, though long-term sun exposure or a weak immune system may increase your risk of developing Merkel cell carcinoma. For these reasons, Merkel cell carcinoma is often found in older people.

Most Merkel cell carcinomas appear on the face, head or neck, but they can develop anywhere on your body, even on areas not exposed to sunlight. This type of cancer can grow and spread to other parts of the body very quickly. Early detection is critical to successful treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma.

NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

The symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma may vary depending on the location of the affected area. Merkel cell carcinoma will typically appear as a firm, red bump or nodule. The bump may be fast growing and is generally painless.

Your dermatologist will start the diagnosis with a physical examination and a review of your medical and family history. In many cases, a biopsy may be necessary to diagnose Merkel cell carcinoma. During a biopsy, your physician removes all or part of the suspected growth for additional tests and examination by a pathologist. In addition, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or X-ray, in order to determine if the cancer has spread to other organs.

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

Treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma will depend on the stage and severity of the cancer. Surgery is typically required to remove the cancerous growth, and in some cases, the surrounding tissue. Radiation or chemotherapy may be necessary to treat Merkel cell carcinoma that has spread.

The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center at Mercy offers a team of experts including dermatologists, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and plastic surgeons who employ a collaborative approach to provide patients with the most the most comprehensive care for skin cancers. Our doctors will diagnose your condition and inform you on the best treatment options available for your needs.