Supporting the

Neuroendocrine Cancer Community

Understanding Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

May 9, 2023

Neuroendocrine cancer is a cancer that originates in the neuroendocrine system, which is responsible for producing hormones that regulate various bodily functions. While neuroendocrine tumors can arise in various parts of the body, including the pancreas, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract, they can also occur in the skin.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) is a type of neuroendocrine cancer that typically occurs on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the head and neck.

MCC is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all skin cancers. However, it is an aggressive cancer that can spread rapidly and has a high risk of recurrence. Accurate diagnosis through biopsy and/or lump removal is essential to inform treatment options.

Symptoms of MCC include a firm, painless, skin-coloured to red-violet lump.

It can grow rapidly (over weeks) – left undiagnosed or untreated, it can spread to other sites of the body including internal organs (lungs, liver and bone).

Patients as well as physicians may initially mistake these tumours for benign (non-cancerous) lumps, such as a cyst or folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) or other skin-based lesions.

NB// MCC is rare – so other reasons for a skin lump are more likely and more commonly suspected.

Not all Merkel cell carcinomas have the same appearance. If you notice a lump on your skin, or mole, or any NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL nodules or lumps on the skin, it is important that this is checked by a doctor / dermatologist.

At Neuroendocrine Cancer UK, we understand the challenges that come with a diagnosis of MCC. That’s why we offer a dedicated private Facebook group for MCC patients and their loved ones – and extend a warm welcome to join our High-grade Neuroendocrine Cancer Natter group. We also provide information and resources on our website to help individuals learn more about this rare form of neuroendocrine cancer and find the support they need.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MCC, we encourage you to visit our website to learn more about the condition and our resources –

Join our private Facebook group here:

Our National High-Grade Neuroendocrine Cancer Natter group meetings are scheduled on our Natter Calendar here