When you do to the dermatologist for a regular checkup, or because you noticed something strange like a new mole or other such skin issues, the last thing you expect or want to hear is that you have skin cancer. However, skin cancer is far more common than most people would think. Around 5 million people in the United States receive treatment for skin cancer every year, after all. What is less common is a diagnosis of Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. When you receive a Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosis, you may wonder what you can and should do. Get to know your treatment options so that you can get started fighting back against this aggressive form of skin cancer as soon as possible.
Just like with any other type of skin cancer, one of the primary treatments for Merkel cell carcinoma is the surgical removal of the cancerous cells on the skin. The surgical excision of the cancerous cells is usually completed with just a local anesthetic and is a quick and easy procedure.
The doctor will remove all of the cancerous cells as well as a small border of healthy tissue around the known malignancy to ensure that all unhealthy tissue is removed. This is double-checked through lab tests to make sure that there are no cancerous cells along the border of the tissue removed.
Merkel cell carcinoma often spreads quickly and can also be found in the lymph nodes near the primary tumor (the cancerous cells found on the skin). As such, surgery to remove the nearby lymph nodes could also be necessary.
Radiation and Chemotherapy
Because Merkel cell carcinoma is so aggressive, surgery alone may not be enough to ensure that the body is cancer-free. Chemotherapy is used for this form of skin cancer when it has been found to have spread to other organs throughout the body.
In such cases, chemotherapy is administered as it most often is through an intravenous injection once every few weeks or so. This aggressive use of chemotherapy can help to slow the growth of tumors. However, because Merkel cell carcinoma is so rare, it is difficult to know how much of an effect chemotherapy may have on the cancer.
Chemotherapy drugs may also be injected directly into the tumors to treat the malignancy locally. This can reduce the chemotherapy side effects.
Radiation therapy, on the other hand, is a more localized cancer treatment that targets the specific cancer cells in the body. Oftentimes, even if your oncologist believes that all cancer cells were removed through surgery, they will recommend a round of radiation therapy to rid the area of any undetectable cancerous cells that were left behind.
Externally administered radiation therapy is usually used form Merkel cell carcinoma. This means several treatments in the doctor's office multiple days a week for a month to two months.
Now that you know more about your treatment options for your Merkel cell carcinoma, you can contact your oncologist and get started. And remember, while these are the standard treatments for this form of skin cancer, your oncologist may also be able to recommend clinical trials and experimental treatments to further help you overcome your cancer. So, get to the doctor's office as soon as possible. Click here to learn more.
My name is Shawna Banks and this is a blog that focuses on health issues that affect women. I became interested in women's health when my sister began having medical problems. After her condition worsened, she went to see a doctor. After her diagnosis and successful treatment, I helped her research the different kinds of health conditions that are common in women. By becoming knowledgeable about these types of problems, we can keep ourselves healthier. I hope that when you read this blog, it will help you to identify symptoms that shouldn't be ignored. If necessary, you can schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.