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What Is Uterine Cancer Stage 3?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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In uterine cancer stage 3, the disease has spread beyond the uterus and cervix but not the pelvis. Uterine cancer stage 3 is divided into substages 3A, 3B, and 3C based on how far the cancer has moved into the pelvic area. Once the cancer has been diagnosed, additional tests including computerized tomography, x-rays, and blood analysis are used to stage the disease. A hysterectomy may also be necessary. Staging the cancer is a crucial step because it determines a patient’s available treatments and prognosis.

When a patient’s uterine cancer is stage 3, her disease is present in the uterus and cervix but has not spread outside the pelvic area. There are a total of four stages of this type of cancer. Once the cancer has spread beyond the uterus, it will be stage 3 or 4. The earlier the stage, the more likely surgery will eliminate all the cancer.

Uterine cancer stage 3 is further subdivided into stages 3a, 3b, and 3c depending on how far the disease has spread within the pelvic area. In stage 3a, the cancer is in the outermost layer of the uterus, the tissue just outside this layer or the tissue lining the abdominal wall. When the cancer has spread into the vagina, it is stage 3b. Cancer in the lymph nodes near the uterus is stage 3c.

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A patient may undergo several different diagnostic tests before her doctor determines that she has uterine cancer stage 3. A pelvic exam is the typical screening test that doctors administer to inspect for abnormalities in the vagina and cervix. A doctor may also use a hysteroscope or lighted tube to examine the inside of a patient’s uterus.

If uterine cancer is suspected, the diagnosis is confirmed through further testing. A transvaginal ultrasound creates a picture of a woman’s uterus using sound waves that shows the thickness, texture, and any abnormalities of the endometrium. Surgically removing a tissue sample from the uterus for testing is also a possible diagnostic test.

Treatment of uterine cancer stage 3 typically begins with radiation therapy and a radical hysterectomy that includes removal of pelvic area lymph nodes and the uterus, cervix and part of the vagina. Patients that are not candidates for surgery may undergo radiation and chemotherapy alone. Hormone therapy is reversed for those who cannot have radiation therapy or surgery.

A patient should be well-informed about the staging process because imprecise staging may lead to ineffective treatment. The process should be thorough and a precise stage determined once surgery is complete and any tissue samples have been analyzed. The average five-year survival rate for patients with uterine cancer is approximately 83 percent across all stages. This statistic is not determinative because every case is unique; a patient’s treatment team is the best resource for questions about her prognosis.

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