Stage III

woman in lab with microscope

What is stage III colorectal cancer?

Stage III colorectal cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes, but has not reached other areas of the body.

Colon cancer

Stage III colon cancer is divided into three categories.

woman in chemo room

Treatment for stage III colon cancer

The standard treatment for stage III colon cancer is:

  • Surgery to remove the section of the colon that has cancer (partial colectomy). Your surgeon will also remove nearby lymph nodes during this procedure.
  • Chemotherapy:

Most often the FOLFOX (5-FU, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin) or CapeOx (capecitabine and oxaliplatin) regimens are used.

man receiving radiation

Radiation therapy for stage III colon cancer

Stage III colon cancer that cannot be removed completely by surgery may be treated with chemotherapy along withradiation therapy to shrink the cancer so it can be removed later with surgery.

Radiation therapy may also be used for stage III cancer after surgery because:

  • The cancer was attached to a nearby organ.


  • The tissue that was removed had positive margins (cancer was found in the edges of the area left behind).

Rectal cancer

Stage III rectal cancer is divided into three categories.

Treatment for stage III rectal cancer

Stage III rectal cancer is usually treated with a combination of:


Radiation therapy


Every person's diagnosis is different, so the order of these three treatments may vary.

Chemo & radiation

In most cases chemotherapy (usually 5-FU or capecitabine) and radiation are the first treatment. This allows the tumor to shrink in size before surgical treatment.


Surgery is usually the second phase. Depending on where the the cancer is located in the rectum, surgeries that may be performed are:

Transanal resection

Low anterior resection (LAR)


Abdominoperineal resection (APR)

If the cancer has spread to nearby organs, a surgery called pelvic exenteration may be needed.

Additional chemo

The third phase is additional chemo after surgery.

Chemo drugs may be:

FOLFOX regimen (oxaliplatin, 5-FU, and leucovorin)

5-FU and leucovorin

CAPEOX (capecitabine plus oxaliplatin)

Capecitabine alone

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