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What is Stage II Breast Cancer?

Stage II breast cancer is a cancer still in its early stages. At Stage IIa the tumor size is below 3/4 inch (2 cm), and has spread to the underarm lymph nodes. Stage IIb breast cancer is when the tumor has increased to between 3/4 inch and 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) and has spread to the lymph nodes, or it is more than 2 inches (5 cm), but has not spread to the lymph nodes. The estimated eight-year survival rate for Stage II breast cancer is approximately 70 percent or higher.

Breast cancer begins in either one or both breasts, and may spread to the lymph nodes, the liver, the bones and the brain. The symptoms of breast cancer may include an unusual lump or lumps on the breast, pain and swelling, and skin irritation such as redness or scaling. An inverted nipple or discharge from the nipple also may indicate the presence of cancer.

Diagnosis for Stage II breast cancer involves the use of a mammogram, a breast ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the breast. A biopsy is another common method of detecting Stage II breast cancer. This involves taking a sample of cell tissue from the breast and sending it to a laboratory for testing. Women are also encouraged to do their own breast examinations to check for unusual lumps that can help detect breast cancer at an early stage.

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Breast cancer staging is based on how large the breast cancer tumor is and how far it has spread to other parts of the body. The breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. Each stage determines what treatment the patient will receive.

Stage II breast cancer treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Surgery is a standard treatment for Stage II breast cancer. For smaller tumors, a lumpectomy — the removal of the tumor and nearby tissues — may be effective. In cases in which the breast cancer tumor is large, a mastectomy — the removal of the whole breast — may be required. After the mastectomy, women may choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery.

After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are often used to destroy any cancerous cells that may have been missed during surgery. In some cases, chemotherapy may also be used before surgery to help shrink the tumor. Women also may undergo hormone treatment after surgery. These treatments help to reduce the hormones in the body that contribute to the formation of Stage II breast cancer.

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