Do you know about Merkel Skin Cell Cancer?
What is Merkel Skin Cancer and where is it located?
Merkel Skin Cancer
Merkel Skin Cancer occurs in 1 in 1,000 people yearly and is very rare.
Merkel Skin Cancer
Merkel Skin Cancer usually occurs in Older Adults.
Merkel Skin Cancer
Symptoms of Merkel Skin Cancer
The first sign of Merkel cell carcinoma is usually a fast-growing, painless nodule (tumor) on your skin. The nodule may be skin colored or may appear in shades of red, blue or purple. 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. If you notice a mole, freckle or bump that is changing in size, shape or color, growing rapidly or bleeding easily after minor trauma, such as washing your skin or shaving, make an appointment with your doctor.
How do they test for Merkel Skin Cancer?
Physical exam- Your doctor will examine your skin for unusual moles, freckles, pigmented spots and other growths.
Removing a sample of suspicious skin- During a procedure called a skin biopsy, your doctor removes the tumor or a sample of the tumor from your skin. The sample is analyzed in a laboratory to look for signs of cancer.
Sentinel node biopsy- A sentinel node biopsy is a procedure to determine whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. This procedure involves injecting a dye near the cancer. The dye then flows through the lymphatic system to your lymph nodes.
The first lymph node that receives the dye is called the sentinel node. Your doctor removes this lymph node and looks for cancerous cells under a microscope.
Imaging tests- Your doctor may recommend a chest X-ray and a CT scan of your chest and abdomen to help determine whether the cancer has spread to other organs.
Your doctor may also consider other imaging tests such as a positron emission tomography (PET) scan or an octreotide scan - a test that uses an injection of a radioactive tracer to check for the spread of cancer cells.
Surgery/// During surgery, your doctor removes the tumor along with a border of normal skin surrounding the tumor. If there's evidence that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the area of the skin tumor, those lymph nodes are removed (lymph node dissection).
The surgeon most often uses a scalpel to cut away the cancer. In some cases, your doctor may use a procedure called Mohs surgery.
During Mohs surgery, thin layers of tissue are methodically removed and analyzed under the microscope to see whether they contain cancer cells. If cancer is found, the surgical process is repeated until cancer cells are no longer visible in the tissue. This type of surgery takes out less normal tissue — thereby reducing scarring — but ensures a tumor-free border of skin.
Radiation therapy////Radiation therapy involves directing high-energy beams, such as X-rays, at cancer cells. During radiation treatment, you're positioned on a table and a large machine moves around you, directing the beams to precise points on your body.
Radiation therapy is sometimes used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain after the tumor is removed.
Radiation also may be used as the sole treatment in people who choose not to undergo surgery. Radiation can also be used to treat areas where the cancer has spread.
Chemotherapy// Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered through a vein in your arm or taken as a pill or both.
Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy if your Merkel cell carcinoma has spread to your lymph nodes or other organs in your body, or if it has returned despite treatment.
Ways you can ensure that you will never get Merkel Skin Cancer
- Avoid the sun during peak hours- Avoid sun exposure as much as possible during the strongest sunlight hours of the day — typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Move your outdoor activities to a time earlier in the morning or later in the day.
- Shield your skin and eyes- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, tightly woven clothing and sunglasses with ultraviolet light (UV) protection.
- Apply sunscreen liberally and often- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring.
- Watch for changes- If you notice a mole, freckle or bump that's changing in size, shape or color, talk to your doctor. Most skin nodules never become cancer, but catching cancer in its early stages increases the chances that treatment will be successful.