Trevan Fischer, MD
Surgical Oncologist & General Surgeon located in Santa Monica, CA
Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare form of skin cancer, with only around 1,500 cases each year in the United States. This aggressive cancer requires the swift intervention of surgical oncologist Trevan Fischer, MD, in Santa Monica, California. For expert diagnosis and treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma, call or request an appointment using the online scheduling tool. Dr. Fischer accepts patients across all of Southern California, including Bakersfield, San Luis Obispo and Palm Springs.
Merkel Cell Skin Cancer
What is Merkel cell carcinoma?
While skin cancers are the most common forms of cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare form of the disease that develops in the Merkel cells found on the surface of your skin. The cancer is usually found in people over the age of 50 (and most often in people over 70) and develops after exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays or as a result of a weakened immune system.
This rare form of cancer is aggressive and swiftly metastasizes to nearby lymph nodes where it can spread to other parts of your body if left unchecked.
What are the signs of Merkel cell carcinoma?
A painless lump that develops on the areas of your skin that have been exposed to the sun generally signal a Merkel cell carcinoma. These areas include your:
- Head (especially on your eyelids)
The lump may be red, blue, purple, or the color of your skin, and can be up to a dime in size.
To help with spotting the signs of Merkel cell carcinoma, the medical field has come up with the acronym AEIOU:
- Asymptomatic, meaning there’s no pain or irritation
- Expanding rapidly
- Immune suppression
- Older than 50
- Ultraviolet radiation
This form of cancer typically develops in people with fairer skin and the size and color of the lump can vary from one person to the next. The bottom line is that if you notice a strange bump on your skin that fits AEIOU, you should see Dr. Fischer as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
How is Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosed and treated?
If Dr. Fischer examines your bump and finds cause for concern, he first removes the lesion for further testing. This first step is both precautionary and prudent because Merkel cell skin cancer is aggressive and can spread quickly. Dr. Fischer biopsiesthe lesion. After studying your tissue to confirm the presence of cancer, Dr. Fischer typically recommends removing a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding the area to make sure he excises all of the cancer and often recommends
a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine whether the cancer is spreading. As conduits for cancer cells, it’s important that Dr. Fischer locate and remove your sentinel lymph node, which is the first node that’s connected to the cancerous area (Dr. Fischer determines this using a dye).
Removing your sentinel lymph node to check for the presence of cancer cells makes it possible for Dr. Fischer to determine if your cancer has spread. If this is the case, he helps you review your treatment options to find the best course of action for your situation.
If you have a strange growth on sun-exposed skin, call Trevan Fischer, MD, to determine whether it’s Merkel cell carcinoma. Or, use the online booking tool to schedule an appointment.