What does stage 3 lymph node cancer mean?

Written by cathryn whitehead
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What does stage 3 lymph node cancer mean?
A main group of lymph nodes can be found around the neck. (Getty Thinkstock)

Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow rapidly and destroy body tissue. Lymph node cancer, also known as lymphoma, is abnormal cell growth in the lymph nodes of the body. There are different stages as well as different types of cancer, and treatment depends on what stage cancer is in.

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Lymph nodes are small, round or bean-shaped organs in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system. The purpose of lymph nodes is to catch harmful substances such as cancer cells and bacteria.


Lymph nodes are found throughout the body, alone or in groups. Main groups are in the neck, under the arms, in the chest, behind the ears, in the abdomen, under the chin and in the groin.


Stage 3 lymph node cancer occurs when tumours spread to four or more lymph nodes, causing the lymph nodes to clump together and stick to other structures in the body. Lymphoma is at stage 3 if it's in two groups of lymph nodes and is located above and below the diaphragm. The cancer is also designated as stage 3 if it has spread into the spleen, an organ, or another area right beside the lymph nodes involved.


Types of lymph node cancer include Hodgkins disease, which is rare, and non-Hodgkins disease, which is the common form of lymphoma. If a patient has night sweats, severe itching, weight loss with no known cause, or a fever above 38.6 degrees C, the stage number is followed by the letter B. If the patient doesn't have any of the symptoms, the stage number is followed by the letter A.


Enlarged lymph nodes are biopsied by inserting a needle into the lymph node to remove cells or tissue or by cutting into skin and removing the lymph node. If cancer is known to be in the body, lymph nodes are biopsied to determine the stage.

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