For a woman diagnosed with breast cancer stage 3, life may appear scary and very bleak indeed. The term breast cancer “stage 3” itself sounds extremely intimidating and it is natural to wonder not only about quality of life but the possibility of survival itself.
However, before panicking, it is important to understand that the prognosis of each woman in stage 3 breast cancer can actually vary enormously.
Given the tremendous variation in stage 3 breast cancer survival rates, research has found that 72% of women who have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer go on to live for at least 10 years after their diagnosis.
Breast cancer stage 3 is actually divided into 3 sub-stages which correspond to the following conditions:
Breast cancer Stage 3 A / III A: Breast cancer at this stage is described as invasive and could be used to mean having: no tumor may be found in the breast, however the lymph nodes (typically found sticking together or to other structures) found in the underarm (s) are found to have cancer, or cancer may be seen to have spread to the lymph nodes near the breast bone.
In the alternative, the tumor in the breast is 5 centimeters or smaller (the size of a regular AA sized battery) and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are sticking to other structures or clumped together.
In the alternative the tumor could be bigger than 5 cm and has spread to the lymph nodes. Each of these conditions fall within the stage 3 A category.
Breast cancer Stage 3 B / III B: This is the term used to describe breast cancer that shows a tumor of any size, but which have spread to the skin of the breast and/or the chest wall.
In addition, the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes of the axilla (underarm) that are clumped to one another or are sticking to other structures or may have spread to the nodes beneath the breast bone. If the cancer is termed as being inflammatory, it will be deemed to have reached at least this stage of III B.
Breast cancer Stage 3 C / III C: This stage of breast cancer is defined as invasive breast cancer that shows characteristics of having spread to the skin of the breast and / or the chest wall.
In the breast itself, there may or may not be any sign of the cancer. The cancer would also have spread to the collarbone lymph nodes, those near the breast bone as well as the axillary lymph nodes.
The earlier parts of stage III breast cancer can be termed as the early stages of breast cancer, however the later sub categories are described as later or advanced stages.
After the third stage of breast cancer which progresses as described above, stage four describes the sort of invasive breast cancer that progresses to other organs of the body such as the brain, the lungs, liver or the bones. Stage IV cancer is also termed as metastatic cancer.