Thursday, May 10, 2012

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive cancer. It is usually found in older patients and a compromised immune system. There are about 1500 reported cases per year but the number is increasing. One -third of patients could die quickly from being diagnosed with MCC and need to be treated immediately.

MCC is also referred as neuroendocrine carcinoma and grows in large amounts in the skin. Over weeks a small bump grows rapidly.

It is very difficult to look at the horrible picture,but this MCC growth can be seen on any part of the body.

This is a picture of Merkel Cell Carcinoma under a microscan which magnifies very high.

Merkel cells are found in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin). Although the exact function of Merkel cells is unknown, they are thought to be touch receptors. They have both sensory and hormonal functions and are sometimes referred to as neuroendocrine cells.

Dr. Randall K. Roenigk of the prestigious Mayo Clinic explains Merkel Cell carcinoma.

What is the typical patient like that can get MCC?  They are usually 65 or over,fair skinned,experienced lots of exposure to the sun and immuno depressed. Also persons who are HIV positive may be susceptible because this disease compromises their immune system.

The following testing is performed to diagnose MMC:

  • Sentinel node biopsy. When cancer cells spread, they often travel first to your lymph nodes — small, rounded structures that filter foreign particles from lymph, a tissue-cleansing fluid in your body. A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure to determine whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. This procedure involves injecting a dye near the skin tumor. 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.
Treatment for MCC  is first of surgery to attempt to remove the carcinoma. Radiation is the next step to reduce the growth of remaining cancer cells. Finally, chemotherapy is used to also decrease continued growth and kill the growing tumor.

The following website is a wonderful place to view for information and support for anyone with MCC.

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