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Stages of Melanoma

Jul 13 • Consumer Education, Procedures, Skin Cancer, Skin Disease, Skin Health • 1492 Views • Comments Off on Stages of Melanoma

Stages of Melanoma

The following stages are used for melanoma:

  • Stage 0: In stage 0, the melanoma cells are found only in the outer layer of skin cells and have not invaded deeper tissues.
  • Stage I: Melanoma in stage I is thin:

    The tumor is no more than 1 millimeter (1/25 inch) thick. The outer layer (epidermis) of skin may appear scraped. (This is called an ulceration).
    Or, the tumor is between 1 and 2 millimeters (1/12 inch) thick. There is no ulceration.

    The melanoma cells have not spread to nearby lymph nodes.


  • Stage II: The tumor is at least 1 millimeter thick:

    The tumor is between 1 and 2 millimeters thick. There is ulceration.

    Or, the thickness of the tumor is more than 2 millimeters. There may be ulceration.

    The melanoma cells have not spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  • Stage III: The melanoma cells have spread to nearby tissues:

    The melanoma cells have spread to one or more nearby lymph nodes.

    Or, the melanoma cells have spread to tissues just outside the original tumor but not to any lymph nodes.

  • Stage IV: The melanoma cells have spread to other organs, to lymph nodes, or to skin areas far away from the original tumor.
  • Recurrent: Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may have come back in the original site or in another part of the body.

Treatment Choices by Stage for Melanoma

The following are brief descriptions of the treatments most often used for each stage. (Other treatments may sometimes be appropriate.)

  • Stage 0

    People with Stage 0 melanoma may have minor surgery to remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue.

  • Stage I

    People with Stage I melanoma may have surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon may also remove as much as 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) of tissue around the tumor. To cover the wound, the patient may have skin grafting.

  • Stage II or Stage III

    People with Stage II or Stage III melanoma may have surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon may also remove as much as 3 centimeters (1 1/4 inches) of nearby tissue. Skin grafting may be done to cover the wound. Sometimes the surgeon removes nearby lymph nodes.

  • Stage IV

    People with Stage IV melanoma often receive palliative care. The goal of palliative care is to help the patient feel better—physically and emotionally. This type of treatment is intended to control pain and other symptoms and to relieve the side effects of therapy (such as nausea), rather than to extend life.

    The patient may have one of the following:

    Surgery to remove lymph nodes that contain cancer cells or to remove tumors that have spread to other areas of the body

    Radiation therapy, biological therapy, or chemotherapy to relieve symptoms

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