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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Merkel cell carcinoma


Other Names for this Disease
  • Carcinoma, merkel cell
  • Merkel cell cancer
  • Merkle tumors
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Overview


Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that appears as a painless, hardened, red to purplish bump.  It occurs primarily in sun-exposed skin of the head and neck, though it can also occur on the skin of the arms, legs, and trunk.  It is considered fast-growing (aggressive), meaning that it can spread quickly to surrounding tissues, nearby lymph nodes, or more distant parts of the body.  Merkel cell carcinoma is diagnosed by biopsy, when some of the tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.  In 2007, approximately 1500 people in the United States were diagnosed with this type of cancer.  Treatment depends on the size of the cancer and the extent to which it has spread as determined by imaging studies.[1]
Last updated: 5/28/2011

References

  1. National Cancer Institute. General Information about Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treatment. 2011; http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/merkelcell/healthprofessional. Accessed 5/22/2011.
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Basic Information

  • The National Cancer Institute provides the most current information on cancer for patients, health professionals, and the general public.  Click on the link to view information on this topic. 

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. Click on the link to view this information. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Merkel cell carcinoma. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.

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