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How is Merkel cell carcinoma treated?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner
Treatment options for Merkel cell carcinoma depend on how far the cancer has spread. Many times, treatment will begin with surgery to remove the growth on your skin. During surgery, doctors remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. Sometimes, the lymph nodes may also be surgically removed. In some cases, doctors may use a procedure called Mohs surgery. In this method, doctors shave of the tumor layer by layer and test each layer for cancerous cells as they go. This way, they can stop removing tissue as soon as there are no more cancerous cells, meaning they can preserve as much healthy skin as possible. If doctors think that there may be cancerous cells left after they've removed the tumor, radiation therapy may be used. If the cancer has spread to other organs, chemotherapy may be recommended. Another option is immunotherapy, using medications to tag cancerous cells and alert the immune system to destroy them.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.