Skin Cancer – The Four Stages of Melanoma

There are four stages of melanoma that classify the severity of this skin cancer. Each stage pertains to the thickness and the amount that the melanoma has spread. When the stage of melanoma has been diagnosed, it is then possible for the doctors to determine the best type of treatment. In this article, we will discuss what the different stages of melanoma signify. We will describe each of the four stages in further detail. Hopefully, after reading this article you will have a greater knowledge of the skin cancer disease known as melanoma and the four degrees associated with it.

Stage 1 of melanoma is thin and the epidermis usually appears scraped. This stage of skin cancer is subdivided into two other categories. These additional categories describe the thickness of the tumor. Stage 1a is less than 1.0 mm and has no ulceration. Stage 1b is less than 1.0 mm but has ulceration. It is also considered to be in stage 1b if it is 1.01 – 2.0 mm even if it does not involve ulceration. In this stage and stage 2 the melanoma has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 2 is also subdivided into three more categories that signify the thickness and the existence or non-existence of ulceration. The tumor in stage 2a is 1.01 – 2.0 mm with ulceration or 2.01 – 4.0 mm without ulceration. Stage 3b has a tumor thickness of 2.01 with ulceration or a thickness of more than 4.0 without ulceration.

When this type of skin cancer advances to stage 3 a significant change occurs. At this stage, the melanoma tumor has spread to the lymph nodes. This is a much more serious stage of the disease because when healthy, the lymph nodes fight disease, cancer and some other infections.

Patients with stage 3 of this cancer have melanoma that has spread into lymph nodes near the primary tumor. This stage also involves in-transit metastasis that has skin or connective tissue that is more than 2 centimeters from the original tumor. However, at this point it has not spread past the regional lymph nodes.

In stage 4, the melanoma has spread to lymph nodes that are a distance from the original tumor or to internal organs. These organs are most often the lung, liver, brain, bone and then the gastrointestinal tract.

When diagnosed with skin cancer, it is important to consult with your doctor concerning the degree or stage of melanoma that you may have. A variety of diagnostic techniques will likely be used to determine the stage of your skin cancer. Most stage 1 and stage 2 melanomas should not cause too much worry because they can most often be cured through surgery. There is little need to worry about getting later stages of melanoma just because you once suffered through the early stages.

Different doctors may use different systems or scales to classify the stages of melanoma. The most commonly used are the TNM staging system and the Breslow scale. The most important things to remember are that melanomas with 0.76 mm or lower thickness are low risk, 0.76 – 1.5 mm involve medium risk and when the melanoma is more than 1.5 mm in thickness you are at a much higher risk. When you are diagnosed with melanoma it is important that you understand exactly what stages your doctor may be referring to and what treatments are available to you.

by Michael Russell

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