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If you are about to begin treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma, a relatively uncommon form of skin cancer, you may find yourself wondering how the treatment will affect your daily life. Perhaps one of the best ways to prepare yourself is to learn about the potential side effects of Merkel cell carcinoma treatment beforehand so that you can report them to your physician as soon as they occur. Continue reading this article to learn about some common side effects of Merkel cell carcinoma treatment and how you can manage them throughout the course of your treatment.

Nausea and vomiting

Often occurring with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, nausea and vomiting are common side effects of Merkel cell carcinoma treatment. Be sure to tell your treatment team if you experience any nausea or vomiting. In some cases, medication can be prescribed to help manage these symptoms.


Fatigue is a common side effect of treatment for many types of cancer, including Merkel cell carcinoma. The best way to deal with fatigue is to listen to your body. It’s better to cancel plans if you’re just not feeling up to it and get the rest you need rather than trying to push through the fatigue.

Increased risk of infection

Chemotherapy can lead to low white blood cell counts, which can result in an increased risk of infection. For this reason, it is important to take precautions to avoid infection. Washing your hands frequently, eating a healthy diet and avoiding others who are sick are all good ways to minimize your risk of infection as you undergo cancer treatment.

Hair loss

Hair loss is another well-known side effect of cancer treatment. If your physician has informed you that the kind of chemotherapy you will be having often results in hair loss, you might consider purchasing a wig before the treatment begins. If you decide not to wear a wig, you may want to buy scarves or hats to keep your head protected from the sun and to help keep you warm.

Emotional side effects

In addition to the physical side effects mentioned above, depression, anxiety and other mental/emotional side effects can also accompany cancer treatment. Some patients find that talking to a counselor is a good way to deal with the emotional side effects of cancer treatment, while others prefer to spend time with their family and friends.

If you have been diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma and would like to learn about the treatments available to you, request an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center. The experts in our Cutaneous Oncology Program closely monitor our patients as they undergo treatment and offer solutions to help manage side effects that could potentially impact their quality of life. For more information, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required.