Staging Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

This piece was written by Guide Contributors

Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL) are classified into stages IA through IVB using the T (tumor, which for CTCL is patches or plaques), N (lymph node), M (presence of metastasis) (TNM) system.2 The level of disease is evaluated based on the size of the plaques or patches of affected skin (T1–T4); the presence or number of cancer cells in lymph nodes (N0–N3); and the presence of metastasis (M0–M1).

Stages IA, IB, and IIA are considered early-stage disease, meaning that the cancer is not widespread. Stages IIB through IVB are considered advanced-stage disease, where the cancer is more widespread and/or has moved outside the skin to other places in the body such as the lymph nodes or other organs. 

How is Cutaneous Lymphoma Staged?


Lauren Pinter-Brown, MD, FACP, Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, UC Irvine Medical Center

Stages of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma in plain language

The following are an explanation of the stages for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma:

Stage IA:

Less than 10% of the skin is covered in red patches or plaques.

Stage IB:

10% or more of the skin is covered in patches or plaques.

Stage IIA:

Any amount of the skin surface is covered with patches or plaques and lymph nodes are enlarged and inflamed, but the cancer has not spread to the nodes.

Stage IIB:

One or more tumors are found on the skin, lymph nodes may be enlarged, but cancer has not spread to the nodes.

Stage III:

Nearly all of the skin is reddened and may have patches, plaques or tumors; lymph nodes may be enlarged, but cancer has not spread to them.

Stage IVA:

Most of the skin is reddened and malignant cells are found in the blood; cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IVB:

Most of the skin is red, any amount of skin is covered in patches, plaques or tumors, cancer has spread to other organs.


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