Skip to content

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Skin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Skin Cancer

After nonmelanoma skin cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the skin or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the skin or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:

  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • Lymph nodebiopsy: For squamous cell carcinoma, the lymph nodes may be removed and checked to see if cancer has spread to them.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
    1|2|3|4|5
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Malignant melanoma
    About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
    Woman checking out tan lines
    There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
    ARTICLE
    precancerous lesions slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
    VIDEO
    15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
    ARTICLE
     
    screening tests for men
    SLIDESHOW
    Vitamin D
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Is That Mole Skin Cancer
    VIDEO
    Brilliant sun rays
    Quiz
     

    WebMD Special Sections