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Stage 3

Find out what stage 3 oesophageal cancer means and about treatment options.

Stage 3 is part of the number system and is divided into 3A, 3B and 3C.

Stage 3A

Stage 3A means your cancer has either grown into the tissue covering the lungs (pleura), the outer covering of the heart (pericardium) or the muscle at the bottom of the rib cage (diaphragm) but there is no evidence it has spread anywhere else.

Diagram-1-of-3-showing-stage-3A-oesophageal-cancer.png

Or it has grown into the membrane covering the oesophagus and is in 1 or 2 nearby lymph nodes, there is no evidence that it has spread anywhere else

Diagram-2-of-3-showing-stage-3A-oesophageal-cancer.png

Or it has grown no further than the layer of muscle but has spread to 3 to 6 nearby lymph nodes, there is no evidence that it has spread anywhere else

Diagram-3-of-3-showing-stage-3A-oesophageal-cancer.png

Stage 3B

Stage 3B means your cancer has grown into the membrane covering the oesophagus and has spread to 3 to 6 lymph nodes but there is no evidence that it has spread anywhere else.

Diagram-showing-stage-3B-oesophageal-cancer.png

Stage 3C

Stage 3C means either your cancer has grown into the tissue covering the lungs (pleura), the outer covering of the heart (pericardium) or the muscle at the bottom of the rib cage (diaphragm) and is in up to 6 lymph nodes, there is no evidence that it has spread anywhere else

Diagram-1-of-3-showing-stage-3C-oesophageal-cancer.png

Or it has grown into nearby structures such as the windpipe (trachea), a spinal bone (vertebra) or a major blood vessel (the aorta) and has spread to any number of local lymph nodes, there is no evidence that it has spread anywhere else.

Diagram-2-of-3-showing-stage-3C-oesophageal-cancer.png

Or it is any size and has spread to 7 or more nearby lymph nodes but there isn't any evidence it has spread to another part of the body.

Diagram-3-of-3-showing-stage-3C-oesophageal-cancer.png

TNM stages

The TNM staging system stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis.

  • T describes the size of the tumour
  • N describes whether there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes
  • M describes whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body

In the TNM staging system Stage 3A is the same as

T4a, N0, M0

T3, N1, M0

T1 or 2, N2, M0

Stage 3B is the same as T3, N2, M0.

Stage 3C is the same as

T4a, N1 or 2, M0

T4b, Any N, M0

Any T, N3, M0

Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • your type of cancer (the type of cells the cancer started in)
  • where the cancer is 
  • other health conditions that you have

If you're fit enough for surgery

Your fitness for surgery depends on your general health and how well you are likely to recover.

Before surgery, you'll have either:

You then have surgery to remove part or all of your oesophagus.

You may also have chemotherapy after your operation or, more rarely, chemoradiation to lower your chances of the cancer coming back.

If you aren't having surgery

Other health problems may mean you can’t have surgery, or you may decide you don’t want it. You will have tests to check how fit you are before you have any treatment including heart and lung tests.

Treatments include:

About other stages

Last reviewed: 
06 Jul 2016
  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (7th edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer, Springer, 2010

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser D
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2014

  • ESMO, oesophageal cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    Ann Oncol. 2013 Oct;24 Suppl 6:vi51-6.

  • Principles and practice of oncology (9th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

  • TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours (7th edition) International Union Against Cancer
    LH Sobin, MK Gospodarowicz, CH Wittekind
    John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2009

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