Skin cancer stages are part of a vital system that is used to determine prognosis, survival, and treatment plans. Multiple variables factor into stage determination, and usually varies among cancer types. The most commonly used classification system is the TNM system, which looks at particular tumor characteristics and grades them X,0,1,2,3, or 4 with the larger numbers indicating increasing category severity. T stands for tumor and includes things like the tumor’s location, size, and depth. N stands for node, and describes whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, locally or farther away. M is for metastasis, which is the spreading of cancer to distant parts of the body. With the values for T, N and M determined, those are combined and an overall stage grouping is assigned.
Determination of Skin Cancer Stages- What You Need to Know
When diagnosis occurs, the tumor is assigned a stage of 0 to IV. This staging happens at diagnosis, and does not change regardless of tumor growth or shrinking. Throughout skin cancer treatment, it is referred to as the stage as initially diagnosed with notes or additions to indicate chances. The beginning of the skin cancer progression is with a single, confined tumor.
Stage 0- This initial phase of the skin cancer stages indicates that cancerous growth is confined only to the top layer of skin, also called the epidermis. The cancerous cells have not spread, and stage 0 can usually be cured by surgery. Also referred to as carcinoma “in situ,” meaning simply that cancer cells are present, but in the same place they started to develop.
With continued growth, we are lead to Stage I
Stage I- Stage I skin cancer has cells that have grown deeper into the skin, but have not spread to lymph nodes or other body parts. The indicative feature of stage one is the tumor is 2 cm across, with only one, or no, high risk features.
High risk features may include:
- Growth into the lower dermis
- Has a thickness of more than 2mm
- Abnormal microscopic appearance, lacking differentiation
- Tumor began on the lip or ear
- Cancer growth seen in the perineural area (the space around a nerve)
Stage II- As the cancer continues to develop and become larger, it may surpass the 2 cm measurement seen in stage I. This is a primary characteristic of Stage II skin cancer, with the other being the cancerous lesion having two or more high risk features. It has not yet spread to the lymph nodes or structures beyond.
Stage III- The progression from Stage II to Stage III involves the spreading of cancerous cells to local structures. It has either grown into the bones of the face, such as the cheek bones or jaw, OR has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Growth has not yet spread to distant organs.
Stage IV- As cancerous cells metastasize to distant organs, we arrive at stage IV. The cancer is no longer limited to the skin and regional lymph nodes, and may have spread to the lungs, colon, brain, liver, distant lymph nodes, or other areas of the skin. This is the final skin cancer stage. Once the cells have metastasized they are likely to continue spreading.
Whatever the Stage, Arrowhead Health Centers is there to Support You
Cancer is in the media a lot, and most of us have heard someone talking about a specific stage of cancer. Initially, it may seem like a vague classification with no indication as to what is really going on. Using Skin Cancer Stages are a way to communicate information about cancer size, location and growth. With what we’ve included in this article, you can now interpret that information. Arrowhead Health Centers we let you have center stage in your treatment. We provide unique treatment plans, personalized to your specific needs- keeping you in the director’s chair. With multiple convenient locations, always available family practice practitioners and many specialties under one roof, we take pride in giving you the care you deserve. If you have noticed a possible skin cancer sign, or if you just want to take better care of your body, contact us at (623) 777-5587.