What is stage 3 lung cancer and how is it treated?
Stage 3 lung cancer refers to a condition where the cancer has affected
the lung tissues, the lymph nodes within the lung as well as lymph nodes
outside the lung area. In contrast, stage 1 lung cancer is that which
affects only the lung tissues while stage 2 lung cancer affects both lung
tissues and lymph nodes inside the lung.
In stage 3 lung cancer, the disease has not spread to other parts of the
body. If it has so spread, it would be classified as
lung cancer, which is the most advanced phase of the disease.
There are three classifications to stage 3 lung cancer.
1. The first group consists of those who have obvious symptoms of
stage 3 disease -- enlarged, abnormal appearing lymph nodes that are
easily detectable on CT scans and chest x-rays.
2. The second group consists of patients whose lymph nodes present
a normal appearance. However, these nodes are nevertheless cancerous and
this is confirmed through endoscopic examination of the chest cavity.
3. Lastly, there are those who have Stage 3b lung cancer. Their
tumors have a variety of sizes. In addition, they have malignant growths
in lymph nodes in locations like the upper ribs, the entry/exit point of
vessels in the lungs, the tracheal ridge, etc.
Patients who fall into the first group and have obvious abnormalities in
the lymph nodes are generally not good candidates for surgical treatment.
The abnormal nodes have cancer in a majority of cases. These patients are
often treated using a combination that involves chemotherapy and radiation
Now, these treatments may be administered sequentially (one after the
other) or concurrently (together). There is some research evidence showing
that concurrent treatment is generally more effective than sequential
treatment. The downside of concurrent treatment is that the patients
usually report greater side effects from the treatment.
The effectiveness of surgery done after radiation / chemotherapy treatment
is still debated -- there is no conclusive evidence about this.
The second group of patients whose lymph nodes appear normal sometimes
find surgery to be a useful treatment. Tumor resection is done in many
such cases. This is performed after tests reveal the presence of cancer
within the lymph nodes.
Some doctors prefer to use a combination of chemotherapy and radiation
treatment or chemotherapy alone before surgery. If the patient responds
well to this pre-operative treatment, surgery is done to remove remaining
cancerous masses. In many patients, such pre-operative treatment is likely
to produce a better result than surgery performed alone.
Certain types of clinical trials may prove useful to these patients with
stage 3 lung cancer.
In contrast, surgery usually does not help the third group of patients,
those who have stage 3b lung cancer. Some of these patients are found to
have fluids that are free from cancerous cells. These patients, who are
said to have non-cancerous effusion, may find a combination of
chemotherapy and radiation therapy useful. Whether the treatment should be
concurrent or sequential is to be decided between the patient and the
doctor, depending on the response and comfort level experienced by the
Sadly, patients who have cancerous effusion usually have a life expectancy
of only less than a year. They should consider whether comfort care alone
is sufficient or if they should go in for chemotherapy.
Stage 3 lung cancer is an advanced stage of the disease. Nevertheless,
some patients with this type of lung cancer may find current treatment
methods useful in increasing life expectancy. Here's more more about
cancer stages and what they imply.