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The staging and prognosis of skin cancer


The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread. BCCs rarely need staging because they don’t often spread or have other high-risk features. Only a very small number of SCCs require staging. This may be because of where the SCC is, its size or because it has spread.

Usually a biopsy is the only information a doctor needs to stage skin cancer. 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. Rarely, some people will have imaging scans to help with staging. For more information about staging, speak to your doctor.


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 when found early.

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.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in December 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods,