What Does Staging Mean?
Cancer staging is a way to describe the extent of cancer in your body.
The TNM System is the most widely used way of determining cancer stages. This staging system, created by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), provides important prognostic and survival information.
There are three categories in the TNM system: T is for tumor; N is for node; and M is for distant metastases. Each category is given numerical and letter values that describe the extent of cancer in that category. The values for T, N, and M are tallied, and that information is used to determine the overall stage, or stage group, which is the more familiar 0-IV Roman numeral system.
Melanoma stage groups comprise five Roman numerals (0 through IV) and up to four letters (A through D), which show variation within each stage. Generally, the lower the number and the lower the letter, the better the prognosis.
Your melanoma may be staged at several points during your care as new information about your cancer is learned.
Read here for more specifics on the TNM categories and melanoma staging.
The five stages of melanoma are described here:
|Stage 0||A Stage 0 melanoma tumor is confined to the upper layers of the skin (epidermis). It’s also known as in situ melanoma. There is no evidence the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasis). There are no subgroups for Stage 0 melanoma.|
|Stage I||A Stage I melanoma tumor is up to 2mm thick and is in both the epidermis and the dermis. A Stage I melanoma may or may not have ulceration. There is no evidence the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasis). There are two subgroups of Stage I: IA and IB.|
|Stage II||Stage II melanoma is defined by tumor thickness and ulceration. Stage II tumors may or may not have ulceration. There is no evidence the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasis). There are three subgroups of Stage II: IIA, IIB, and IIC.|
|Stage III||Stage III melanoma is defined by the level of lymph node involvement and ulceration, as well as several other factors. There is no evidence the cancer has spread to distant sites beyond the lymph nodes. There are four subgroups of Stage III: IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, IIID.|
|Stage IV||Stage IV occurs when the melanoma has spread beyond the original site and regional lymph nodes to distant areas of the body. The most common sites of metastasis are distant skin and lymph nodes, then lungs, liver, brain, bone, and/or intestines. There are no subgroups of Stage IV melanoma.|
Read here for specific information on each stage of melanoma.