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Merkel cell carcinoma symptoms are primarily visual. Like most other skin cancers, Merkel cell carcinomas are typically seen before they are felt; many patients report no pain or discomfort whatsoever. However, even though Merkel cell carcinomas do not always hurt, they still require prompt medical attention. The more quickly a patient reports his or her symptoms to a physician, the more quickly treatment can be initiated. Early diagnosis often leads to a wider variety of treatment options for the patient, as well as potentially better outcomes.

What does Merkel cell carcinoma look like?

The most common Merkel cell carcinoma symptom is a small, raised lump that develops on the surface of the skin. Most of these tumors are:

  • Pink, purple or reddish-blue in color
  • Between one and five centimeters in diameter (some are larger, but this is rare)
  • Found on sun-exposed parts of the skin, such as the face, neck, arms and legs

These tumors can sometimes break open and bleed. They also have a tendency to grow larger after they first appear. If a Merkel cell carcinoma spreads to another part of the body, it can cause additional symptoms that vary based on the location of the metastasis.

Moffitt Cancer Center offers a comprehensive range of diagnostic services for patients who are experiencing the symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma. We treat many skin cancers each year, allowing our oncologists to accumulate the expertise necessary to recognize the early warning signs of Merkel cell carcinoma. At Moffitt, patients who are diagnosed with this (or any other) form of skin cancer can receive multiple expert opinions in a single location, entrusting their treatment to a top caliber team of specialists.

A referral is not required to make an appointment at Moffitt. If you’d like to learn more about Merkel cell carcinoma symptoms or discuss a possible diagnosis with one of our expert oncologists, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.