When staging anal cancer, doctors consider the size of your tumor, and whether it has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes, or distant organs. Stage 3 is diagnosed when the tumor extends into surrounding organs or lymph nodes but not distant organs.
Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in your anus. The
Doctors stage anal cancer to help guide treatment decisions and predict your chances of survival. The most common staging system is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC)’s TNM system. This system divides anal cancer from stage 0 to stage 4.
Stage 3 anal cancer, also known as stage III, means that your cancer has either spread into nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
Read on to learn more about stage 3 cancer including how it’s staged and treated.
Is stage 3 anal cancer curable?
The AJCC’s TNM system considers three factors when staging anal cancer:
- Tumor, the size of your tumor
- Nodes, whether your cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes
- Metastasized, whether your cancer has spread to distant body parts
Doctors can find out which stage you’re in by taking a small tissue sample during a procedure called a biopsy, and performing imaging to see if your cancer has spread to other areas.
Your doctor will diagnose you with stage 3 anal cancer if the tumor extends into nearby organs, lymph nodes, or both.
Stage 3 anal cancer vs. regional anal cancer
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and ACS use a different staging system for reporting survival statistics. They break anal cancer into three stages:
- Localized: This is if the cancer is contained to your anus.
- Regional: This is if the cancer has spread into nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: This is if the cancer has spread to distant body parts.
Regional cancer in this staging system is equivalent to stage 3 in the AJCC system. According to data from the NCI’s
Doctors subdivide stage 3 anal cancer into three categories depending on how far your cancer has spread.
Stage 3A anal cancer
Your doctor will diagnose you with stage 3A anal cancer if your tumor is 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) across or smaller, and has spread to lymph nodes near the rectum but not to distant parts of your body.
Stage 3B anal cancer
Stage 3B anal cancer occurs when your tumor has started to grow into
- prostate gland
Stage 3B anal cancer still hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or distant body parts.
Stage 3C anal cancer
Your doctor will diagnose you with stage 3C anal cancer if your cancer is 5 centimeters (2 inches) across or larger, and has spread to neighboring organs (such as the vagina, urethra, prostate gland, or bladder) and nearby lymph nodes but not distant body parts.
The most common combination of chemotherapy drugs is fluorouracil (5-FU) with mitomycin. Some people receive capecitabine (Xeloda) instead of 5-FU. It can take up to
If chemoradiation therapy isn’t effective, your doctor may recommend a type of surgery called abdominoperineal resection. During this procedure, a surgeon removes your:
- lower large intestines
- possibly lymph nodes
The end of your remaining intestines is attached to your abdomen, where waste is collected in a bag outside your body.
The relative 5-year survival rate of regional anal cancer is about
- younger age
lower HPV load(HPV infection often causes anal cancer)
- better overall health
- female sex
Here’s a look at how the relative
|Stage||5-year relative survival rate|
Here’s a brief look at the AJCC stages of anal cancer.
|Stage 0||Pre-cancerous cells are growing in the lining of your anus.|
|Stage 1||Your cancer is contained to your anus and is smaller than 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) across.|
|Stage 2||Your cancer is smaller than 5 centimeters (2 inches) across and still contained to your anus.|
|Stage 3||Your cancer has either spread to nearby organs or to nearby lymph nodes.|
|Stage 4||Your cancer has spread to distant parts of your body.|
Stage 3 anal cancer occurs when cancer spreads to nearby organs, lymph nodes, or both. It can often be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. You may need surgery if these treatments aren’t effective.
Many people find it embarrassing to visit their doctor with a problem with their anus, but it’s critical to seek immediate medical attention if you develop any anal cancer warning signs for a prompt diagnosis and treatment.