Merkel cell carcinoma: Tips for managing

Findings from research studies suggest that patients treated for Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) should:

1.    Keep all follow-up appointments with your doctors. MCC is an aggressive skin cancer. It can return after treatment. For this reason, doctors who have expertise in treating MCC recommend:

  • Every patient treated for MCC needs a follow-up visit every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years.
  • After 2 years of cancer-free exams, the patient should return every 6 to 12 months for a complete exam.
  • Each exam should include a complete skin exam and an exam of certain lymph nodes.

These follow-up visits help find skin cancer in the earliest stage. The sooner the cancer is found and treated, the better the outcome.

2.    Perform skin self-exams as often as your dermatologist recommends. If you have received treatment for MCC, it is essential that you learn how to perform a skin self-exam. Your dermatologist or someone in your dermatologist’s office can teach you exactly what you need to know, including how to examine certain lymph nodes.
Contact your dermatologist immediately if you find any new growth or rough patch on your skin; or feel a change in your lymph nodes. 3.    Protect your skin from the sun. If you have had MCC, you must always protect your skin from the sun. The sun’s rays damage skin. Your dermatologist can offer you specific tips that meet your needs.

You will find general helpful tips at Prevent skin cancer.

4.    Ask your doctors what else you can do to improve your outcome. Some doctors recommend eating a healthy diet and exercising to keep the immune system strong. Getting enough sleep also is important. Be sure to ask your doctors what could help you.

Related resources:

Learn more about Merkel cell carcinoma:


Akhtar S, Oza KK, Wright J. “Merkel cell carcinoma: report of 10 cases and review of the literature.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2000 Nov; 43(5 Pt 1):755-67.

Bichakjian CK, Alam M, Andersen J, et al. “Merkel cell carcinoma: Clinical practice guidelines in oncology.” National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Version 2.2013.

Gao L. “Merkel cell carcinoma: Tips and advancements in management.” Educational session presented at the 2013 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting: Miami. Mar 2013.