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Stage Three Breast Cancer

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Metastatic Breast Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Determining the stage of your breast cancer is crucial in order for the best possible treatment to be given to your particular breast cancer. Your doctor may use many different tools to diagnose the stage you are in, including a staging system known as TNM. T in this case stands for Tumor, and is a measure of the size of the tumor. N stands for Node and whether there is lymph node involvement, and M stands for metastasis.

Your doctor may use the TNM system to describe the cancer. This system is based on the size of the tumor (T), lymph node involvement (N), and whether the cancer has spread, or metastasized, to other parts of the body (M).

Stage III breast cancer is divided into subcategories known as IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

In stage IIIA, it’s possible there be no tumor. However, cancer may be found in axillary lymph nodes. In other cases, there is a tumor, of any size and it has also spread to axillary lymph nodes.

In stage IIIB, the cancer may be any size and has already spread to the wall of the chest and/or the breast skin and also may have spread to the axillary lymph nodes. It may also have spread to those lymph nodes near the breastbone.

For those experiencing inflamed, reddening, warmth and swelling of a large area of the breast, inflammatory breast cancer may be the reason. Inflammatory breast cancer is also considered to be at least stage IIIB and may mean that cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes and can be found in the skin.

In stage IIIC, there may or may not be a tumor. If there is, it may be any size, and may have spread to the skin of the breast and/or the wall of the chest. The cancer at this stage has also spread to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone and the cancer may have spread to axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes near the breastbone as well.

Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy and clinical trials are all used to treat stage III breast cancer, depending on the size of a tumor, its location and whether or not surgery is an option.


Stages of Breast Cancer. Breastcancer.org.
Retrieved from the internet on October 17, 2011

Stage III Breast Cancer Treatment Options. WebMd.
Retrieved from the internet on October 17, 2011

AImee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER

Reviewed October 18, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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