Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is considered an aggressive type of cancer, even more aggressive than melanoma. This means that it rapidly grows and spreads to nearby tissues or distant parts of the body (metastasizes).Estimates of the time it takes for MCC to progress from an early to advanced stage, or to cause death, is unknown because MCC is rare, the diagnosis can be difficult to make, and treatments vary.One study of 195 patients did mention that approximately two-thirds of Merkel cell carcinomas expanded in size rapidly over the course of three months.
Many factors are thought to influence the progression of MCC, including the size and location of the tumor, whether or not the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or distant sites in the body, whether the cancer regrows after treatment (a recurrence), and what types of treatments are used. Unfortunately, approximately one third of individuals affected with MCC are diagnosed when the cancer is already advanced, meaning the cancer has metastasized to the lymph nodes or farther. The advanced state at diagnosis is due to the fact that MCC can be difficult to diagnose because it appears similar to benign skin findings, is often painless, and grows so rapidly.
Last updated: 10/6/2014
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Akhtar S, Oza KK, Wright J.. Merkel cell carcinoma: report of 10 cases and review of the literature. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2000; 44(5 Pt 1):755-767. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11050578. Accessed 10/6/2014.
Heath M, Jaimes N, Lemos B, Mostaghimi A, Wang LC, Peñas PF, Nghiem P. Clinical characteristics of Merkel cell carcinoma at diagnosis in 195 patients: the AEIOU features. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008; 58(3):375-381. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18280333. Accessed 10/6/2014.