Skin cancer is one of the most widely diagnosed and highly treatable forms of the disease. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body, but it usually appears on the areas that are most frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. The three most commonly diagnosed forms of skin cancer are:
Melanoma is another form of the disease. Skin cancer typically originates in a mole or collection of pigment that changes shape, color, or texture.
Stages of Skin Cancer
- Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ): Abnormal cells are discovered in the squamous cell or basal cell (topmost) layers of the skin. These cells may or may not become malignant.
- Stage I: The cells have become malignant. The tumor is less than 2 centimeters and may have one high-risk factor.
- Stage II: The tumoris larger than 2 centimeters at its widest and/or has more than 2 high-risk factors.
- Stage III: The tumor has spread to other sensitive parts of the head or neck (frequently the jaw, eye socket, or a side of the cranium). The cancer may have also spread to a lymph node on the same side of the body. The lymph node is less than 3 centimeters. Other patients may experience the following: tumor is less than 2 centimeters at its widest and may have one high-risk component; tumor is larger than 2 centimeters at its widest; tumor is any size and contains at least 2 high-risk components.
- Stage IV: At this stage, the patient may be experiencing any of the following:
- Tumor is any size and has spread to other areas of the head or neck (frequently the jaw, eye socket, or side of the cranium); cancer has spread to a lymph node on the same side as the tumor and the node is between 3-6 centimeters in width; cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes on one or both sides of the body and the nodes are less than 6 centimeters.
- Tumor is any size and may have metastasized (spread) beyond the head or neck to the jaw, eye socket, skull, spine, or ribs. Cancer has moved to a lymph node that is now at least 6 centimeters wide.
- Tumor is any size and has spread to the base of the skull, spine, or ribs, and cancer may also be in the lymph nodes
- Cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
As with most forms of cancer, a patient’s prognosis largely depends on the stage, size, and location of the cancerous cells. If detected and treated early enough, most forms of skin cancer can be removed and monitored regularly to prevent recurrence.