Stage 3 Lung Cancer: Survival, Treatment and Life Expectancy

Stage 3 lung cancer is seen as one of the advanced stages like stage 4A and 4B. However, there are some differences between these stages in terms of the situation of lymph nodes; the extent, and size of the tumor; the presence of metastases. Lung cancer can also be defined in the TNM system. Thus, it is easier to define the overall situation of the tumor (T), lymph nodes (N), and metastases (M). They also have some grades which indicate the emergency.

Pre-Reading

Before reading this article, we advise you to take a look at the main posts on lung cancer.

  1. What is lung cancer? Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment
  2. Lung Cancer Stages (in detail)

TNM System

Doctors make use of TNM System to categorize lung cancer stages. T, N, and M stand for Tumor size, Lymph nodes, and Metastases respectively. These letters are followed by a number; which grades them. Now, we will explain them one by one.

T represents the tumor size; it has some subtypes.

The tumor is not larger than 3 cm = T1

It is larger than 3 cm = T2

The tumor may be any size and has invaded neighboring areas (for instance; diaphragm)=T3

The tumor may be any size and has invaded neighboring structures (for instance; the heart)=T4

N stands for Lymph nodes and has some subtypes.

Lymph nodes are clear = N0

Nearby Lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected = N1

Further Lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected  = N2

The tumor has affected lymph nodes on the other side of the chest; around the collarbone and around the neck = N3

M stands for metastases (cancer cells invade the neighboring structures and organs)

There is no metastases in the body = M0

The tumor has invaded the other organs or structure = M1 (metastatic cancer)

Stage 3 Lung Cancer
Stage 3 Lung Cancer can affect lymph nodes.

Stage 3A

At this stage, the tumor is relatively large and it has invaded the lymph nodes. Today, around %10 of all lung cancer cases are at the stage of 3A when the doctors make the diagnosis while the diagnosis is made; nearly 60% of all cases have later stages such as 3B, 4A and 4B. 3A means that the cancer is relatively localized because it hasn’t invaded other organs in the body; it has just affected the nearby lymph nodes

Stage 3A descriptions within the system of TNM.

T1 N2 M0

The tumor is not larger than 3 cm.

Distant lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected.

There are no metastases in the body

T2 N2 M0

The tumor is larger than 3 cm

Distant lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected.

There are no metastases in the body.

T3 N1 M0

The tumor may be any size and has invaded neighboring areas.

Nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected.

There are no metastases in the body.

T3 N2 M0

The tumor may be any size and has invaded neighboring areas.

Distant lymph nodes on the same side of the chest are affected.

There are no metastases in the body.

 

Stage 3B

Just like stage 4, stage 3B is also regarded as a late stage but it may be treated under some circumstances. One out of five cancer patients has stage 3B when doctors make the diagnosis although two out of five have later stages like 4A and 4B, which are more aggressive and hard to treat compared to stage 3B.

Stage 3B descriptions within the system of TNM

If we define stage 3B in the TNM system; there are 2 types; Any T, N3, M0 and T4, Any N, M0.

Any T, N3, M0:

The tumor is at any size or may have invaded neighboring structures.

The tumor has affected lymph nodes on the other side of the chest; around the collarbone and around the neck.

There are no metastases in the body.

T4, Any N, M0

The tumor may be at any size and has invaded neighboring structures. (for instance; the heart)

The tumor may have affected the lymph nodes; or not.

There are no metastases in the body.

 

Symptoms of Stage 3 Lung Cancer

Stage 3 lung cancer has symptoms such as coughing up permanently (sometimes with blood); pain in the chest; pain in the bones; feeling tired permanently; loss of appetite and weight loss, fatigue; these are the basic signs and people may neglect them because none of these signs are specific and unique symptoms. If the tumor has also affected and invaded neighboring structures, it can also cause pain in the back, ribs, and chest; the patients may have difficulty in breathing.

 

Treatment of Stage 3 Lung Cancer

Besides stage 4A and 4B stages, stage 3 is also seen as inappropriate for surgery. Surgery is generally not practiced for late stages; but, it has some exceptions; doctors may advise surgery under some circumstances; this decision is made by your doctor regarding the patient’s overall health condition and characteristics of the tumor. Furthermore, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are generally given to the patients. If the patients can tolerate, a combination of them can be prescribed; however, radiation therapy is given if the patients cannot tolerate the chemotherapy. Although it cannot treat the cancerous cells, it can reduce the effects of symptoms.

Survival Rates for Stage 3 Lung Cancer

Firstly, do not forget that statistics always change because of the updates and recent developments which are seen in the treatment methods. Today, 5 years survival rate after the diagnosis of the disease is %36 for stage 3A; %26 for stage 3B. The point is that any person with cancer may live much longer than 5 years because it is just the median! The survival rates are up to the overall health condition of the patient; the size of the tumor, the presence of metastases and the characteristics of the patient.

These survival rates are always going up because of the opportunities which this century’s medical world offers us. That’s why people with cancer shouldn’t lose their hope and start to undergo treatment methods given doctors. For further questions please consult your doctor and do not lose your hope because the characteristics of the patient and their friends play a role!

Resources

American Lung Association

IASLC: Lung Cancer Association

 

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