Stage 3 Breast Cancer - The Facts on Stage 3 Breast Cancer - What Defines Stage 3 Breast Cancer, Treatment Options Available
surgery tumor lymph chemotherapy
Stage 3 breast cancer is actually divided up into multiple sub-sections involving the size and location of the tumor and the amount of other organs affected. Here is a brief overview of the three sections:
In order to qualify as IIIA, the tumor must be either 5 cm or less in size and have affected multiple lymph node groups, or it can be over 5 cm in size if it has only affected a few lymph nodes.
For Stage IIIB, the tumor itself can be of any size, but the cancer must have invaded surrounding chest muscles and possibly broken out on the skin. Cancer that has spread to the skin is instantly classified as Stage IIIB because of possible further spreading ramifications.
Stage IIIC can have a tumor of any size, but the cancer must have spread to multiple lymph nodes, including those behind the breastbone, in the arm pits, and other auxiliary lymph nodes. Cancer that has moved to lymph nodes above the collarbone is considered inoperable.
Treatment Options Available
While some sections of Stage III are considered late-stage, there are still many treatment options available to patients. The 5-year survival rate is from 54 to 67 percent, and the 8-year survival rate is around 40 percent.
Chemotherapy can be used both before and after surgery, and in instances where surgery isn’t an option, it can be the main method of treatment. When used before surgery, chemotherapy tends to shrink the tumor, which allows for easier removal. And when used after, it can destroy the last remnants of cancer cells that remain.
Two key surgeries for breast cancer are the lumpectomy and mastectomy. For a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor and some surrounding breast tissue. However in the mastectomy, the entire breast is removed. Many women opt for re-constructive surgery after undergoing a mastectomy. Lymph nodes containing cancerous cells must also be removed at the time of surgery to prevent further spreading.
Similar to chemotherapy, radiation therapy is used after surgery to target cancerous cells and prevent them from coming back.
Some cancers are “hormone-receptor positive”, which means that they are triggered into further growth by hormones like estrogen. To prevent cancers like these from growing further, drugs can be administered to stop production of those trigger hormones. Women can also opt to have their ovaries removed, which eliminates production of the hormones, provided they haven’t yet reached menopause.
In a significant number of breast cancer patients, an excess of a protein called HER2 is a principle contributor to fast cancer growth. A new drug is able to stop this protein from helping the cancer to grow, and is often administered together with chemotherapy.
The medical community is always looking for ways to advance cancer treatments. Many clinical studies are open to women with Stage III breast cancer, taking the forms of new drugs, new treatment combinations, etc. Keep in mind that while there is always risk associated with clinical trials, all successful treatments began as such trials. This can be a good way to get on the cutting edge of medical breakthroughs.
We hope this information on Stage 3 breast cancer has been helpful for you. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor.