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Stage 3

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

The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and how far it’s spread. It helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

There are 2 staging systems. Doctors can use a numbers system or the TNM system to stage your cancer.

TNM stands for tumour, node and 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

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

Stage 3A

Stage 3A means one of the following:

  • your cancer has either grown into the muscle layer of the stomach and 7 or more nearby lymph nodes contain cancer cells - this is the same as T2, N3, M0 in the TNM staging system
Stomach cancer stage 3a.png
  • your cancer has grown into the outer lining of the stomach and between 3 and 6 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer cells - this is the same as T3, N2, M0
stomach cancer stage 3a 2.png
  • your cancer has grown through the stomach wall and 1 to 2 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer cells - this is the same as T4a, N1, M0
stomach cancer stage 3a 3.png

Stage 3B

Stage 3B means one of the following:

  • your cancer has grown into the outer lining of the stomach and more than 7 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer cells - this is the same as T3, N3, M0 in the TNM staging system
stomach cancer stage 3b.png
  • your cancer has grown through the stomach wall and between 3 and 6 lymph nodes contain cancer - this is the same as T4a, N2, M0    
stomach cancer stage 3b 1 .png
  • your cancer has grown through the stomach wall into nearby tissues and organs, and the nearby lymph nodes either don’t contain cancer, or up to 2 lymph nodes contain cancer - this is the same as T4b, N0 to N1, M0
stomach cancer stage 3b 2 .png

Stage 3C

Stage 3C means one of the following:

  • your cancer has either grown through the stomach wall and more than 7 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer - this is the same as T4a, N3, M0 in the TNM staging system
Stomach cancer stage 3c.png
  • your cancer has grown through the stomach wall into nearby tissues and organs, and between 3 and 7  lymph nodes contain cancer - this is the same as T4a, N2 to 3, M0
Stomach cancer stage 3c 1 .png

Treatment

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

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

Surgery

Surgery is the one of the main treatments for stage 3 cancer.

If you're fit enough for surgery

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

You will have chemotherapy before surgery, then have your operation and then your doctor will usually recommend a further 3 courses of chemotherapy. This is because combining surgery and chemotherapy improves chances of the cancer not coming back.

You may have chemotherapy or chemoradiation after your operation if you haven’t had any treatment before your surgery.

If you aren't having surgery

Other health problems might 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.

The main treatment is chemotherapy. You may have radiotherapy.

About other stages

Last reviewed: 
20 Jul 2016
  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th Edition)
    M Amin and S Edge.
    Springer, 2017.

  • Gastric cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    Waddell t. (and others)
    Annals of Oncology 24. 2013. (Supplement 6) vi57-vI63

  • Guidelines for the management of oesophageal and gastric cancer
    Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, the British Society of Gastroenterology and the British Association of Surgical Oncology
    Allum (and others)
    Gut 2011;60:1449-1472

  • Gastric cancer
    Custem EV. (and others)
    The Lancet, 2016. 5th May S0140-6736(16)30354-3

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