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Melanoma stages

Making an educated treatment decision begins with the stage, or progression, of the disease. The stage of melanoma is one of the most important factors in evaluating treatment options.

Our cancer doctors use a variety of diagnostic tests to evaluate melanoma and develop an individualized treatment plan. If you have been recently diagnosed, we will review your pathology to confirm you have received the correct diagnosis and staging information, and develop a personalized treatment plan. If you have a recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach that is suited to your needs.

Melanoma stages are assigned based on the size or thickness of the tumor, whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and certain other characteristics, such as growth rate.

Video: Cancer Staging

Cancer Staging

TNM system for melanoma

Melanoma stages are assigned based on the size or thickness of the tumor, whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and certain other characteristics, such as growth rate.

TNM Staging

The American Joint Commission on Cancer has developed a uniform staging system that allows doctors to determine how advanced a melanoma is, and to share that information with each other in a meaningful way. This melanoma staging system, known as TNM staging, is composed of three key pieces of information:

  • Tumor (T) describes the tumor’s thickness, or how deep it has grown into the skin. The thickness of the melanoma, also known as the Breslow measurement, is an important factor in predicting whether or not a tumor has spread. The thicker the melanoma, the greater the chance of it spreading. The rate at which the tumor cells are dividing (also known as the mitotic rate), and the presence or absence of ulceration (an open, bleeding sore), are also considered in determining the T category.
  • Nodes (N) indicates whether or not the melanoma cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, or the channels connecting the lymph nodes.
  • Metastasis (M) refers to whether the melanoma has spread to distant organs, as well as on levels of LDH, a substance in the blood.

Melanoma may be staged before surgery (clinical staging), based on physical exam and imaging results. It will also be staged after surgery (pathologic staging), in which the clinical information will be combined with information gained from biopsies. Because it uses more information, pathologic cancer staging is the most accurate.

We're here to guide you through the cancer journey

We understand you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns about your type of cancer and what it all means. We're here to help guide you through the process.

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An accurate cancer diagnosis

accurate cancer diagnosis

Our team of cancer experts uses advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic technology to detect cancerous cells anywhere in the body.

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