It’s difficult to assess the true Merkel cell carcinoma survival rate due to the rarity of the disease. When studying outcomes, researchers have been able to track the experiences of only a few individuals. Additionally, many of these patients were diagnosed several years ago, when treatments were not as advanced as they are today. As a result, there’s no accurate way to predict any patient’s specific outcome.
What research does tell us is that:
- Outcomes are best when there is no lymph node involvement at the time of diagnosis. Because Merkel cell carcinoma is quick to spread, patients should promptly report any unusual symptoms to a physician to accelerate the diagnostic process.
- Because a virus may play a role in the development of Merkel cell carcinoma, researchers believe that the cancer might respond favorably to treatments that utilize the body’s immune system. New drugs that target hormone-producing cells also show promise in the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma. However, these options are not yet offered on a widespread basis. As a result, patients may wish to seek treatment at a facility that offers clinical trials for skin cancer.
- Recurrence is always a possibility, but early detection can increase the scope of viable treatment options. Survivors must be diligent about regular self-exams and professional check-ups to increase the likelihood of early detection.
- Some treatments can cause serious side effects without having a significant impact on a tumor. A skilled oncologist can help a patient choose the options that are best for his or her prognosis and ensure the best possible quality of life.
- The five-year survival rate for Merkel cell carcinoma is improving. Patients with localized Merkel cell carcinoma have a 78% survival rate while those whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby structures have a 52% survival rate. (It should be noted that survival rates for cancer are simply estimates and based on a large number of people. They should not be used to predict the success rate of any one patient’s cancer diagnosis.)
Merkel cell carcinoma treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our expert oncologists take a comprehensive approach to Merkel cell carcinoma treatment. Skilled professionals from numerous disciplines (e.g., surgery, radiation therapy and supportive care) come together to review each patient’s case and develop a highly individualized treatment plan. Moffitt’s patients have access to a wide range of options, including clinical trials. And, behind the scenes, our dedicated researchers are continually evaluating new treatments that could ultimately improve the Merkel cell carcinoma survival rate.