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    Stage II Breast Cancer
    What is stage II breast cancer and what is the prognosis for someone with this diagnosis?

    Stage I is a small cluster of cells that are confined to where they started growing - usually in the ducts of the breast.

    Stage II is a little more advanced. It means that the tumor is slightly larger and may have started to send cancer cells out to scout for more place to grow. If so, the wandering cancer cells have made it as far as the lymph nodes and have been trapped there and prevented from setting up housekeeping in another organ. There are no distant metastases in Stage II breast cancer.

    Stage II breast cancer is divided into Stage IIA and IIB.

    In Stage IIA breast cancer:

    • The cancer is no larger than 2 centimeters in size but has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or
    • The cancer is between 2 and 5 centimeters in size but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

    In Stage IIB breast cancer:

    • The cancer is between 2 and 5 centimeters in size and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or
    • The cancer is larger than 5 centimeters but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

    With lymph involvement the standard treatment is to do surgery, either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation is to make sure that all of the local cancer cells are taken care of. The chemotherapy is insurance that if any made it through the lymph barrier they will be cleaned up by the chemo which goes through your whole body.

    Your treatment will be determined by you and your team of doctors. There are so many variations in the types of breast cancer that no one treatment will work for all of them. Many doctors will suggest doing chemotherapy before the surgery, this does not mean anything other than that your doctor thinks that with your cancer it would be better to try to shrink the tumor and kill the cells before removing the lump.

    Stage II breast cancer has less than 50% chance of recurrence, the smaller the tumor, the lower the chances of it coming back. With no nodes involved and a small tumor the rate of recurrence over 20 years is 33%. If the tumor is larger or the cells have begun to move away from the primary tumor, the percentages are closer to 44%.

    No one knows which tumors in which people are more likely to come back - that is why chemotherapy is suggested for everyone. There may be a chance that you don't need it - that every single cell has been removed by the surgery, but your doctor will not want to take the chance of increasing the likelihood of a recurrence by skipping chemo.

    The latest figures for 5 year survival rates with stage II breast cancer are

    • IIA - 88%
    • IIB - 76%

    Remember when you look at these numbers, the drugs being used to treat breast cancer have improved dramatically in the last ten years. These percentages do not necessarily apply to you others currently being diagnosed. Many survivors of stage III and IV breast cancer make it well beyond the five year mark. Never let statistics frighten you. Breast cancer is a disease that is being researched and new tools to fight are found constantly. There was a time when any breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. That time is long gone. Even if there is a recurrence, life with breast cancer can be both long and good.

    also see -> Stage I Breast Cancer


    July 7, 2000

    Last updated April 1, 2006

    Elsewhere on the Web:

    Breast Cancer Stages
    Treatment by Breast Cancer Stage


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