After an initial skin cancer diagnosis, doctors stage or categorize the cancer. Knowing the stage of progression of the cancer assists doctors with determining appropriate treatment. This determination of severity of the condition is standardized and based on clinical finding. The determination also includes the results rendered from testing that may have been performed. Stages of skin cancer range from Stage 0 - 4. Staging is done differently for melanoma than for non-melanoma skin cancers.
Stages of non-melanoma skin cancers
Stage 0 - Abnormal cells are found which have the potential to become cancerous.
Stage 1- Cancerous cells are present but the size of the cancerous lesion is 2 centimeters in diameter or smaller.
Stage 2 – During Stage 2, the cancerous lesion is greater than 2 centimeters in diameter, but has not spread beyond the skin.
Stage 3 – In this stage, the cancer has spread to nearby structures such as cartilage, muscle, or bone. Regional lymph nodes may also be involved.
Stage 4 - Cancer has spread to other, more distant areas of the body, possibly involving organs such as the lungs, liver, and/or the brain.
Recurrent - Recurrent skin cancer means that the cancer has returned (recurred) after treatment to either the original site or has developed in another part of the body.
Stages of melanoma
Stage 0 - Abnormal melanocytes are present which have the potential to become melanoma.
Stage 1 - During Stage 1, cancerous cells are present but the size of a cancerous lesion is less than 2 millimeters in thickness.
Stage 2 - Cancerous lesion is between 2 and 4 millimeters in thickness. Cancerous cells are still confined to the skin.
Stage 3 - The disease has spread beyond the skin. Lymph node involvement has occurred.
Stage 4 - Cancer has spread beyond the regional lymph nodes. Distant metastasis to organs such as liver, lungs and brain has occurred.
Recurrent - Recurrent melanoma is a cancer that has returned (recurred) after treatment to either the original site or has developed in another part of the body.
Following skin cancer staging, your doctor will determine the necessity of treatment. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the earlier treatment may begin and the better the prognosis. To learn more about how skin cancer may be treated, continue reading the next section on treatment of skin cancer.