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Squamous cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes (spreads to other areas of the body), and when spreading does occur, it typically happens slowly. Indeed, most squamous cell carcinoma cases are diagnosed before the cancer has progressed beyond the upper layer of skin. There are various types of squamous cell carcinoma and some tend to spread more quickly than others.

What are the stages of squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is classified into the following stages, which are partly based on how far the cancer has spread throughout the body:

  • Stage 0 — Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells, which are located in the epidermis (the top layer of skin). During Stage 0, the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the epidermis.
  • Stage 1 — When squamous cell carcinoma progresses to Stage 1, it means that the cancer has spread deeper into the skin, but not into any lymph nodes or healthy tissues.
  • Stage 2 — A Stage 2 classification means that, in addition to progressing deeper into the skin, the cancer also displays at least one high-risk feature. This might include metastasizing to the lower skin layers or the nerves. However, at this stage, the cancer still hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or healthy tissues.
  • Stage 3 — Once squamous cell carcinoma reaches Stage 3, the cancer has spread into lymph nodes but not any other tissues or organs.
  • Stage 4 — This is the final stage of squamous cell carcinoma, where the cancer has spread to at least one distant organ, whether that be the brain, the lungs or a separate area of skin.

If you think you might have squamous cell carcinoma, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention to minimize the risk of cancer spread. The specialists in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Cutaneous Oncology Program can provide you with the comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services you need. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online to request an appointment.