What Is Stage 3 Cancer, and How Do Oncologists Determine the Course of Treatment?


Quick Answer

Stage III cancers are typically cancers that are large in size or have spread to nearby tissues or the lymph nodes. Stage III cancers have not spread to other organs, the National Cancer Institute explains. Cancer treatment during this stage depends on the type of cancer involved, explains Cancer.Net.

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Full Answer

Most tumors are divided into four stages, known as Stage I through Stage IV, with Stage I being the least extensive and Stage IV the most advanced. Doctors base staging criteria on the tumor's size, the extent of regional lymph node involvement, and the number of tumors they find. Cancer that has spread to sites other than the primary site is said to have metastasized and is classified as Stage IV. The degree to which the cancer cells resemble normal cells, or the grade of the tumor, is also a consideration, says the NCI.

Cancer staging is one tool doctors use to determine the best treatment option for the patient. Once staging is complete, the doctor and patient meet to develop a plan of care based on the type and stage of the cancer, the long-term prognosis, the patient's preferences, and his age and overall health, explains Cancer.Net. Treatment options may include surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill cancer cells, or immunotherapy to stimulate the body's ability to fight the cancer on its own. Many patients also use complementary therapies, such as dietary and herbal supplements, yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage, to help manage their emotional reactions to the disease and treatment side effects.

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