In stage 3 breast cancer, the affected cells have not metastasized to other parts of the body, although the lymph nodes have been affected. This is an advanced stage, but then with recent studies and developments in the field of medical science, the chances of surviving Type 3 breast cancer has improved.
Moreover, there are ample treatment options for you to consider for treating this stage of breast cancer.
Subcategories of Stage 3 Breast Cancer
The third stage of breast cancer has 3 subcategories and these include:
- Stage 3A: This stage of breast cancer is characterized by a tumor which may be sized more or less than 5 cm. The defining attribute of stage 3A is that here the cancer cells have reached out to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3B: In this stage, the cancer cells have intruded into the skin and chest muscles, irrespective of the size of the tumor. This category of breast cancer is chiefly manifested in the form of swelling of the breasts which is often characterized with inflammation.
- Stage 3C: This stage combines the above 2 stages. In this category of stage 3 breast cancer, the cancerous cells have extended to the skin, muscles and the lymph nodes.
Treatment for Stage 3 Breast Cancer
Although in the third stage of breast cancer, the disease has not spread much beyond the adjacent lymph nodes and the breast, more lymph nodes are involved – around 4 to 10 or more. Moreover, the tumor can be large enough to extend to the wall of the chest or the skin of the breast.
Even with this form of breast cancer being advanced, there are 40% chances of the patient surviving for 8 years. However, these women do not live for up to 8 years. The rate of success is measured on the basis of their performance up to a decade following treatment. Often, patients are treated with different combinations of treatments.
Chemotherapy: This is commonly sought for in the third stage of breast cancer. The benefit of the approach is that it can destroy any cancer cell which might be present after surgery. The chemotherapy may even shrink the tumor which makes it easier to be eliminated. Chemotherapy is always required after surgery. If surgery is not resorted to, chemotherapy may be the alternative.
Surgery: Many women suffering from stage 3 breast cancer opt for surgery, including lumpectomy wherein the surgeon eradicates the tumor and adjacent tissues. In a mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, along with the lymph nodes.
A mastectomy is often followed by a breast reconstruction surgery. Larger tumors may require chemotherapy before the surgery is done.
Gene Pattern Examination: New gene pattern tests like MammaPrint and Oncotype DX may be used by a few doctors to decide whether the woman requires adjuvant chemotherapy.
The tests are performed on the basis of a breast cancer tissue sample and assess the functions of several genes within the cancer to assess the chances of recurring once the treatment has been done.
The tests do not tell the doctor about the chemotherapy or hormone therapy which is best for you, but help them analyze the success of adjuvant therapy. Clinical trials are being undertaken to examine the helpfulness of such tests in cases when doctors are uncertain including instances where the tumor is small or the lymph nodes are clear.
- You may ask your oncologist for referral to a counselor or psychotherapist in case there is any emotional or psychological problem during or after mastectomy. You can also speak to other breast cancer survivors for support and advice.
- After the breasts have healed from surgery and the drainage tubes removed, you can get started with a light exercise regimen like a walk, a swim or yoga to increase your energy levels and stimulate the circulation of blood to your skin to help it heal faster. Your stamina can be built slowly with exercises which do not stress the muscles or exhaust your energy levels.
Have a mammogram done annually after a mastectomy for stage 3 breast cancer. Self checks should be regularly performed and unusual findings should be immediately reported. Notify your physician in case of swelling, redness, numbness, tingling, scars or hard knots under the skin etc.