Staging non-melanoma skin cancer

Doctor talking to a female patient

Staging means finding out the size of the cancer and if it has spread to other parts of your body. Most non-melanoma skin cancers will not need to be staged. It's rare for basal cell cancers (BCC) to spread. Squamous cell skin cancers (SCC) can spread, but this is also fairly rare. 

Occasionally, with squamous cell cancer, the doctor may want to do further tests. These may include:
• An ultrasound scan
• A CT (CAT scan)
• An MRI scan
• A PET scan

These tests can help the doctors to stage your cancer - or give it a number from 0-4. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. 

What are the stages of non-melanoma skin cancer?

  • Stage 1: The cancer is found only in the top layer of skin. Bowen’s disease is considered stage 0.
  • Stage 2: The cancer is less than 2cm across and has not spread.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread to the tissues under your skin and maybe to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to another part of your body, for example, muscle, cartilage or bone. This rarely happens with basal and squamous cell cancers.

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