Understanding Your Stage of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
In most cases, nonmelanoma skin cancer is confined to your skin and is easily treated and cured. If skin cancer has spread, then your doctor will want to know the extent or stage of the cancer. This helps your doctor decide whether you need more treatment, and if so, which treatments might be best.
The stage is based on the size of your tumor, how deeply into your skin it has grown, and whether the cancer has spread beyond the tumor to the lymph nodes or other parts of your body. Your doctor will look at the results of biopsies to determine the stage. If you have squamous cell carcinoma, your doctor may also test lymph nodes near the tumor to see if the cancer has spread beyond the skin.
Stages are numbered in Roman numerals between 0 and IV.
Stage IV. The cancer can be any size. It has grown into other bones; into more than one lymph node, or into a lymph node larger than 3 centimeters wide, or on the other side of your body; or it has spread to other parts of your body.
High-risk features for nonmelanoma skin cancer include:
The tumor is thicker than 2 millimeters.
The tumor has spread into the lower layer of your dermis, or into the subcutis (Clark level IV or V).
The tumor has grown and spread along nerve pathways.
The tumor began on an ear or on a lip that has hair on it.
The tumor cells look very abnormal under a microscope.
Most nonmelanoma skin cancers are Stage 0 or Stage I. Stage III and IV are relatively rare. Based on your type of cancer, its stage, your overall health, and other factors, your doctor works with you to develop a treatment plan.