Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) guidelines derive from melanoma and do not recommend baseline cross-sectional imaging for most patients. However, MCC is more likely to have metastasized at diagnosis than melanoma.
Objective: To determine how often baseline imaging identifies clinically occult MCC in patients with newly diagnosed disease with and without palpable nodal involvement.
Methods: Analysis of 584 patients with MCC with a cutaneous primary tumor, baseline imaging, no evident distant metastases, and sufficient staging data.
Results: Among 492 patients with clinically uninvolved regional nodes, 13.2% had disease upstaged by imaging (8.9% in regional nodes, 4.3% in distant sites). Among 92 patients with clinically involved regional nodes, 10.8% had disease upstaged to distant metastatic disease. Large (>4 cm) and small (<1 cm) primary tumors were both frequently upstaged (29.4% and 7.8%, respectively). Patients who underwent positron emission tomography-computed tomography more often had disease upstaged (16.8% of 352), than those with computed tomography alone (6.9% of 231; P = .0006).
Limitations: This was a retrospective study.
Conclusions: In patients with clinically node-negative disease, baseline imaging showed occult metastatic MCC at a higher rate than reported for melanoma (13.2% vs <1%). Although imaging is already recommended for patients with clinically node-positive MCC, these data suggest that baseline imaging is also indicated for patients with clinically node-negative MCC because upstaging is frequent and markedly alters management and prognosis.
Keywords: CT; MCC; Merkel cell carcinoma; PET-CT; SLNB; baseline imaging; clinical guidelines; distant metastasis; melanoma; nodal metastasis; nonmelanoma skin cancer; occult disease; scans; sentinel lymph node biopsy; skin cancer; staging.
Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Dermatology, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.