Skin Cancer: Merkel Cell Carcinoma

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Talking With Your Doctor TOPICS

What should you ask your doctor about Merkel cell carcinoma?

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your doctor. You should feel free to ask any question, no matter how small it might seem. Nurses, social workers, and other members of the treatment team can also answer many of your questions. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • How sure are you about my diagnosis of Merkel cell carcinoma?
  • Has the cancer spread beneath the skin? Has it spread to lymph nodes or other organs?
  • Do I need a sentinel lymph node biopsy to look for cancer in the lymph nodes?
  • Do I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other doctors?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • What are my treatment options? What do you recommend? Why?
  • Should I get a second opinion? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • What’s the goal of treatment?
  • What risks or side effects I should expect?
  • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What are the chances of my cancer growing or coming back with the treatment options we have discussed? What would we do if that happens?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • Should I take special precautions to avoid sun exposure?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times so you can plan your work or activity schedule. Or you may want to ask about clinical trials for which you may qualify. You can find more information about communicating with your health care team in our document Talking With Your Doctor.


Last Medical Review: 12/31/2013
Last Revised: 12/31/2013