Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cutaneous malignancy with high rates of recurrence, metastases, and mortality. Its nonspecific clinical presentation often delays the diagnosis, and its treatment is still controversial because of the infrequent nature of the tumor. The authors provide an overview of the current literature on epidemiology, cause, pathogenesis, staging, management, and outcomes of this disease. Effective diagnostic and treatment modalities such as wide local excision of the primary tumor, importance of sentinel node biopsy for staging, evidence for the use of adjuvant radiation therapy, and emphasis on a multidisciplinary treatment approach of Merkel cell carcinoma as it pertains to surgical practice are reviewed.
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