What are the stages of melanoma?

Doctor talking to a female patient

Knowing the stage of your cancer is very important, as it helps your doctor to decide the best treatment for you. Melanoma staging looks at:

  • The thickness of the tumour in mm: How far has it grown into the deeper layers of your skin?
  • Ulceration: Has the cancer broken the surface of the skin?
  • Lymph nodes: Has it spread to your lymph nodes?
  • Metastasis: Has it spread to any other parts of your body?

Your doctor often uses this information to give your cancer a number stage – from 1 to 4. A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer.

  • Stage 0: Melanoma in situ. This is the very earliest stage of melanoma. The melanoma cells are only in the very top layer of the skin (epidermis). Melanoma in situ does not usually spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage 1–2: Early stage melanoma. The melanoma cells are found in the top layer of your skin only. The melanoma has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
  • Stage 3: Medium stage or locally advanced melanoma. The melanoma cells have grown in size, are found in the deeper layers of your skin and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes and other tissues.
  • Stage 4: Advanced melanoma. The cancer has spread to distant parts of your body like your lung, liver or brain. This is also called metastatic melanoma.

Read more about melanoma stages in detail.

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