Merkel Cell Carcinoma Tests

City of Hope’s team of internationally trained dermatologists and dermatopathologists use their clinical experience and expertise, and leading-edge technology, to provide you with the most accurate diagnosis — and the most effective treatment. This powerful combination of experience, technology and talent gives City of Hope its reputation for transforming Merkel cell carcinoma patients with advanced disease and dire diagnoses into survivors.

How Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed?

If an area on the skin looks abnormal, your doctor may order a skin biopsy, which involves removing tissue that appears abnormal and sending that tissue sample to a pathologist who can confirm if you have Merkel cell carcinoma and what type and stage.

There are several types of skin biopsy, including:

  • Shave biopsy is used to remove the abnormal growth using a razor blade.
  • Punch biopsy utilizes a special round instrument to remove a circular tissue sample.
  • Incisional biopsy involves removing a section of abnormal growth.
  • Excisional biopsy involves removing all abnormal growth.

If the tumor is large or has metastasized to the lymph nodes, your skin cancer care team may order diagnostic imaging, e.g., CT or PET scans or X-rays.