Although most cancers are assigned stages, basal cell carcinoma is seldom staged. That’s because it’s highly unlikely for basal cell carcinoma to spread, and the extent of a cancer’s spread is the primary consideration in most traditional staging models. Staging plays a significant role in how most other cancers are treated, but most non-metastatic basal cell carcinomas can be successfully treated through a similar combination of therapies.
How is basal cell carcinoma staged?
In rare situations, such as when the original lesion is more than 2 millimeters thick, or when it has invaded the lower layers of the skin, a stage may be assigned. The stages range from zero to four; higher numbers indicate more aggressive cancers. Most oncologists use the following scale:
- Stage 0 basal cell carcinoma (carcinoma in situ) – These cancers are only present in the epidermis or the upper layer of the skin. They have not spread to any of the deeper layers or lymph nodes.
- Stage 1 basal cell carcinoma – These cancers are smaller than 2 centimeters and have not spread to any nearby lymph nodes or organs, but may have one factor that increases the risk of spreading or recurrence (e.g., it is on the ear or a hair-bearing lip, or it has grown into the small nerves in the skin).
- Stage 2 basal cell carcinoma – These cancers are larger than 2 centimeters, and while they have not spread to other organs or lymph nodes, they have two or more factors that make them likely to return or spread.
- Stage 3 basal cell carcinoma – These cancers have spread to local lymph nodes (or the facial bones), but not to other organs.
- Stage 4 basal cell carcinoma – These cancers have spread to several lymph nodes, bones or other organs, and they may be any size.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we treat patients with all stages of basal cell carcinoma. Our skilled oncologists can determine whether a lesion is likely to spread and what treatments are expected to be most beneficial. No referral is necessary to meet with our team; call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.