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The staging and prognosis of skin cancer

Staging

The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread. Unlike other cancer types, BCCs are rarely staged. Some SCCs may require staging. Usually a biopsy is the only information a doctor needs to stage skin cancer. For SCC, the doctor may also feel the lymph nodes near the skin cancer to check for swelling. This may be a sign that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. For more information about staging, speak to your doctor.

Prognosis

Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. Your treating doctor is the best person to talk to about your prognosis. Most BCCs and SCCs are successfully treated, especially if found early.

While most non-melanoma skin cancers do not pose a serious risk to your health, being told you have cancer can come as a shock and you may feel many different emotions. If you have any concerns or want to talk to someone, see your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in January 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Diona Damian, Dermatologist, The University of Sydney at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Associate, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Dr Annie Ho, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis Care, Macquarie University, St Vincent’s and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Rebecca Johnson, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Shannon Jones, SunSmart Health Professionals Coordinator, Cancer Council Victoria; Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Roslyn McCulloch, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Policy Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Health and Wellbeing, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Michael Wagels, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD. Thanks also to Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre for providing the dysplastic naevus photograph, and to Prof H Peter Soyer for providing the other photographs. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.