Stages of melanoma diagnosis

Staging melanoma is the process used to describe the extent of the disease. The doctor will take into account the tumor thickness and depth and whether the melanoma cells have spread, or metastasized, to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Staging helps the melanoma treatment team develop an appropriate treatment plan and determine the prognosis (outlook).

Melanoma Stage
Description
Treatment Option
0 The tumor is confined to the epidermis and has not entered the dermis, a deeper layer of the skin. This stage of melanoma is also called melanoma in situ. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Usually no further treatment is necessary; however, skin examination to evaluate for a new melanoma or other skin cancer should continue.
IA The tumor is less than 0.8 mm in thickness. The tumor does not appear to be ulcerated. There is no evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Usually no further treatment is necessary; however, skin examination to evaluate for a new melanoma or other skin cancer should continue. 
IB The tumor is less than 0.8 mm in thickness, with ulceration, OR the tumor is 0.8–2 mm in thickness, without ulceration. There is no evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Usually no further treatment is necessary; however, skin examination to evaluate for a new melanoma or other skin cancer should continue. 
IIA The tumor is 1–2 mm in thickness and ulcerated, OR the tumor is 2–4 mm in thickness and not ulcerated. There is no evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may be recommended. Usually no further treatment is necessary; however, skin examination to evaluate for a new melanoma or other skin cancer should continue. 
IIB The tumor is either 2–4 mm in thickness and ulcerated, OR the tumor is more than 4 mm in thickness and not ulcerated. There is no evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may be recommended.  Additional treatment(s) may also be recommended. 
IIC The tumor is more than 4 mm in thickness and ulcerated. There is no evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may be recommended.  Additional treatment(s) may also be recommended. 

IIIA

IIIB

IIIC

IIID

Several characteristics can make up a Stage III diagnosis. The tumor may be of any thickness and may or may not be ulcerated. The cancer cells have spread either to a few nearby lymph nodes, or to some tissue just outside the tumor but there is no evidence the tumor has spread to other organs.

The tumor and lymph nodes that have cancer cells are removed surgically. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may be recommended. Additional treatment(s) may be recommended, including adjuvant therapy.

Read more about Managing a Stage III Diagnosis

IV The cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, other organs in the body, or areas far from the original site of the tumor. This is called metastatic melanoma. The tumor and lymph nodes that have cancer cells are removed surgically, if possible. Additional treatment(s), like immunotherapytargeted therapy or clinical trials may be recommended.
 

Additional Melanoma Staging Information

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system is used to stage melanoma. The AJCC uses the TNM system to determine the melanoma stage. The overall stage is a combination of the T, N and M. This information should also be included on your pathology report