When a group of cells in the body begin to develop in an unnatural manner and at an abnormal pace, it can result in one of the most dreaded diseases known to man - cancer. These carcinogenic cells are not confined to a particular region in the body, but can develop anywhere and at any time. Similarly breast cancer can occur when there is an abnormal growth of tumor in the breast. Based on the spread of the cancerous cells, the stages of breast cancer are determined.
Stage 3 Breast Cancer: A Snapshot
As mentioned earlier, breast cancer is caused due to the presence of abnormal cells in the breast. These cells may develop in either or both the breasts. An increase in the levels of estrogen in the body, due to birth control pills or hormone therapy, is also responsible for triggering the development of unhealthy cells.
The early signs of breast cancer is the growth of a hard lump, felt during self examination, in the breast. This lump may be benign, but can turn malignant after a while. As the lump grows in size, it can affect the lymph nodes and even metastasize to other organs, thereby affecting them. The third stage breast cancer is further divided, based on the size and spread of the tumor.
- The first subtype of stage 3A breast cancer is where the lump's size is less than 5 cm and it has affected the nearby lymph nodes. The lump in the second subtype of stage 3A breast cancer is more than 5 cm and has attacked the lymph nodes in the armpit and sternum (or breastbone).
- In stage 3B, the harmful cells have spread to the chest and have also affected the skin. At this stage, the cancer is referred to as inflammatory breast cancer, where the breast becomes swollen and the areola reddens. This is the point where it can lead to stage 4 breast cancer.
- The stage 3C of breast cancer is more severe in nature, when compared to the other two, since the cancer has metastasized beyond the lymph nodes in the chest region and has invaded other healthy organs. This is an inoperable stage, since the tumor has metastasized above the clavicle (or collarbone) and may have affected the brain.
Stage 3 Breast Cancer Treatment
Treatment options for third stage of breast cancer depends on the metastasis of this dreadful disease. Timely treatment can reduce the severity of this disease and increase the life expectancy of the patient. Here are some breast cancer treatment methods that are undertaken to try and cure this life-threatening disorder. With the help of these treatment methods, the life expectancy of stage 3 and other stages can be improved to a certain extent.
- Just like all the types of cancers, breast cancer is also treated with the help of chemotherapy. This method involves the use of certain kinds of drugs which help in reducing the size of the tumor. It also destroys cancerous cells to some extent.
- After chemotherapy has been administered, the doctor may opt for surgery to remove the tumor and other affected tissues in the breast. This procedure is known as lumpectomy. In case the breast has been affected, then the patient may have to undergo mastectomy, a surgery where the entire breast, along with the tumor and lymph nodes, is removed.
- A modern approach for treating the stages of breast cancer, especially the third stage is the use of biological therapy. In this therapy, herceptin, a drug which prevents the formation of HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a protein which may trigger breast cancer.
- Hormone therapy is another method implemented to treat breast cancer. Drugs like anastrozole and tamoxifen are administered, which block the production of estrogen and other hormones responsible for the metastasis of the cancerous cells.
- Radiation is also used to destroy the remaining cancerous cells in the breasts and other parts of the body. This therapy is usually carried out after surgery. With new insights in breast cancer research, many advanced drugs and treatment methods to stop the spread of this disease have come into existence.
The stage 3 and stage 4 cancer survival rate is unfortunately not so positive. The survival rates, determined by the type of breast cancer, for five years can range between 50 to 70 percent. Thanks to new breakthroughs in medicine, women suffering from breast cancer can now lead a near-normal life.