If your test results show melanoma, staging the cancer helps your treatment team recommend the best treatment for you.

What are the stages of melanoma?

If your test results show melanoma, the cancer will be given a stage between 0 and 4.

Melanoma staging describes the cancer's size and if it has spread to other parts of your body.

Here is a simplified table of melanoma staging:

Stage Definition
Early-stage Stage 0 Abnormal cells are found in the top layer of skin, called melanoma-in-situ
Stage 1 The melanoma is less than 2mm deep and may or may not be ulcerated.
Stage 2 The melanoma is more than 2mm deep.
Advanced Stage 3 The melanoma has spread to lymph vessels or lymph nodes.
Stage 4 The melanoma has spread to other parts of the body.

Staging the cancer helps your treatment team recommend the best treatment for you.

Early-stage melanoma is usually treated with surgery alone. Advanced melanoma will need more treatment. 

Lymph nodes (also known as glands) are found throughout the body and are part of the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system contains a series of lymph vessels (tiny channels under the skin) that carry the lymph fluid through the nodes back to the bloodstream.

Lymph nodes contain white blood cells that help fight infection and diseases, such as cancer.

The number of lymph nodes you have is different for each person.

For example, there can be between 15 to 30 nodes in an armpit. Lymph nodes also vary in size from a pinpoint to the size of a baked bean.

Lymph nodes can swell and become tender when you have an infection. If you develop a swollen lymph node, get it checked by your doctor.

Sometimes, cancer cells spread into the lymph nodes from cancer in another part of the body. It is also possible for cancer to start in a lymph node. This type of cancer is called lymphoma.

I was very scared when I learned I had melanoma. But I knew I was in good hands. NZ specialists know about melanoma - they were very thorough, understanding and kind

Karen
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Living with melanoma
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Living with melanoma
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Living with melanoma
Top: Living with melanoma | Bottom left: Living with melanoma | Bottom right: Living with melanoma
Left: Living with melanoma | Top right: Living with melanoma | Bottom right: Living with melanoma

After a diagnosis

If your test results show cancer, this can be a difficult time, and feelings can change from one moment to the next. 

Everyone reacts differently when they learn they have cancer. There is no right or wrong way to feel. 

Talk about your treatment options with your doctor, family and friends. Ask for as much information as you need. It is up to you how involved you want to be in decisions about your treatment. 

Prognosis for melanoma

The prognosis is the likely outcome of a disease. 

If the test results show melanoma skin cancer, you may wish to speak with your treatment team about the prognosis.

Early-stage melanoma is usually treated with surgery alone. Advanced melanoma will need more treatment. 

The doctors will look at the type and stage of the cancer as well as your age and general health to give a prognosis, but no doctor can predict the exact outcome for you. 

Last updated: July 10, 2021