Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Staging for basal and squamous cell skin cancers

The stage of a cancer sums up how far it has spread.

Because basal cell skin cancer is almost always cured before it spreads to other organs, it is seldom staged unless the cancer is very large.

Squamous cell cancers have a higher (but still small) risk of spreading. Staging is sometimes done, especially for people who have a high risk of spread. This includes people who have had organ transplants and those with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The tests and exams described in the section “How are basal and squamous cell skin cancers found?” are the main ones used to help figure out the stage of the cancer. In rare cases, tests like x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used as well.

Stages are labeled using the number 0 and the Roman numerals I through IV (1-4). As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV (4), means a more advanced cancer.

After looking at your test results, the doctor will tell you the stage of your cancer. Be sure to ask your doctor to explain your stage in a way you understand. This will help you decide on the best treatment for you.


Last Medical Review: 02/24/2014
Last Revised: 02/24/2014