Imaging of merkel cell carcinoma

Ba D. Nguyen, Ann E. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, highly malignant cutaneous tumor, primarily of the head and neck, that requires timely diagnosis, adequate staging, and aggressive therapy. MCC tends to be overlooked in the early stage, has a high propensity for invading local and regional nodal basins, and exhibits a high postoperative recurrence rate, with distant thoracic, abdominal, and central nervous system metastases. Conventional radiography and cross-sectional imaging show lesions similar to those originating from other small cell carcinomas. Nuclear medicine procedures such as sentinel node scintigraphy, somatostatin receptor scintigraphy, and positron emission tomography may be used to supplement judicious cross-sectional imaging evaluation, thereby adding diagnostic value in staging and providing therapeutic guidance. Ultimately, however, the diagnosis relies exclusively on pathologic findings at immunohistochemical staining and electron microscopy. The rarity of MCC and the resulting insufficient awareness of this neoplasm often delay correct identification and treatment, which essentially consists of wide-margin surgical excision of the primary tumor and local and regional radiation therapy. To date, clinical information is still insufficient to fully appreciate the role of imaging in MCC management. A better imaging algorithm is expected with increased awareness and improved clinical understanding of this uncommon skin neoplasm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Merkel cell carcinoma, 40.39
  • Radionuclide imaging, **.1216
  • Radionuclide imaging, in diagnosis of neoplasms, **.1216
  • Skin, CT, 40.1211
  • Skin, neoplasms, **.321

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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