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The stages of nonmelanoma skin cancer are typically assigned on a scale of zero to four. Lower numbers indicate smaller, more contained tumors; higher numbers indicate larger cancers that have started to spread throughout the body.

Staging is often determined right after a patient is diagnosed with skin cancer, before he or she begins treatment. That’s because treatment plans are often influenced by the size and extent of a patient’s cancer. Patients with earlier-stage cancers may be good candidates for surgery, while patients with later-stage cancers may obtain more benefit from clinical trials.

To determine the stage of a skin cancer lesion, physicians use a combination of imaging scans, such as CT scans and MRIs, and lab tests, such as lymph node biopsies. After reviewing the results of these tests, a physician will typically assign one of the following skin cancer stages:

  • Stage 0, or carcinoma in situ – Abnormal cells are found in the upper layer of the skin (the squamous cell or basal cell layer of the epidermis), but these cells are not yet cancerous.
  • Stage 1 – Abnormal cells have become cancerous, but the cancerous lesion is smaller than 2 centimeters wide.
  • Stage 2 – Cancerous cells have formed a tumor that is larger than 2 centimeters wide. • Stage III – Cancerous cells have spread to one of the lymph nodes on the same side of the body as the tumor, but the affected lymph node is still relatively small.
  • Stage 4 – Cancerous cells have spread to one of the nearby lymph nodes and the node is relative large, or the cancer has spread to the jaw, eye socket or side of the skull.

Contact Moffitt Cancer Center to learn more about the stages of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Our team will be happy to help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options, or help you make an appointment for a consultation if you have the symptoms of skin cancer but have not yet been diagnosed. Most importantly, no referral is required to come to Moffitt. Call 1-888-663-3488 or request an appointment online.