The types of skin cancer and the location are not the only factors that are considered in the choice of treatment. Once a diagnosis of skin cancer has been made, the doctor will determine the stage of the cancer. Staging refers to examinations that are done to measure the level of cancer in the body. The stage helps to determine the best treatment options for the individual. The stage is determined by three different factors: tumor size, depth into the skin, and if it has metastasized or spread to other areas of the body. There are five stages of skin cancer for both melanoma skin cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer.
The different stages of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer
Stage 0 also known as carcinoma in situ. “in situ” is latin for “in its place”. This is a good name for this stage because the unusual cells are found only in the top layer of the skin, or in its place on the skin. These cells usually do not form a tumor, but rather the lesion is flat or follows the shape of the organ in which it is growing. These cells may turn into cancer at a future time.
In stage I, the skin cancer tumor has a width of no more than 2 centimeters. Whereas in stage II, the skin cancer tumor has a width of more than 2 centimeters. The width of the tumor is measured at the widest point.
Stage III of skin cancer is determined by whether the cancer has metastasized. This is when the cancerous cells have moved to other areas beyond the skin like surrounding tissue, bone, or lymph nodes. Skin cancer is classified as stage III because it has not metastasized to distant body parts.
Stage IV is also determined by whether the cancer has metastasized, but in this stage, the more distant parts of the body would be affected.
The different stages of melanoma skin cancer
Like in non-melanoma skin cancer, stage 0 is defined by whether the outer layer of skin is the only area affected by melanoma cells.
When the tumor is not thicker than the 1 millimeter, then a person has stage I melanoma. In this stage, the tumor usually has not invaded the lymph nodes.
In stage II, the size of the tumor has grown to 2 and 4 millimeters.
Stage III consists of when the cancer cells have invaded the lymph nodes or to areas beyond the starting site.
Stage IV is similar to stage III, but the difference is that the cancer cells have invaded into areas of the body way beyond the starting site.
As staging is used to determine what the treatment plan for a patient will be, each patient should be familiar with the different stages. In doing so, a patient will also be more informed as the doctors are explaining and determining what is the best plan of action.