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Stage 2

Find out what stage 2 breast cancer means and about the treatments.

Stage 2 breast cancer means that the cancer is either in the breast or in the nearby lymph nodes or both. 

It is an early stage breast cancer.

Stage 2 breast cancer has two groups: stage 2A and 2B.

Stage 2A

Stage 2A means one of the following

  • there is no tumour or a tumour 2 centimetres (cm) or smaller in the breast and cancer cells are found in 1 to 3 lymph nodes in the armpit or in the lymph nodes near the breastbone
Diagram-1-of-2-showing-stage-2A-breast-cancer.png
  • the tumour is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and there is no cancer in the lymph nodes
Diagram 2 of 2 showing stage 2A breast cancer

Stage 2B

Stage 2B means one of the following

  • the tumour is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and there are small areas of cancer cells in the lymph nodes
Diagram 1 of 3 showing stage 2B breast cancer
  • the tumour is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and the cancer has spread to 1 to 3 lymph nodes in the armpit or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone
Diagram 2 of 3 showing stage 2B bowel cancer
  • the tumour is larger than 5cm and hasn't spread to the lymph nodes
Diagram 3 of 3 showing stage 2B breast cancer

TNM stages

The TNM staging system stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis.

  • T describes the size of the tumour
  • N describes whether there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes
  • M describes whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body

In the TNM staging system, stage 2A breast cancer is the same as:

  • T0 N1 M0
  • T1 N1 M0
  • T2 N0 M0

Stage 2B is the same as:

  • T2 N1 M0
  • T3 N0 M0

Treatment

The usual treatment is surgery to remove the cancer. Your doctor will also check the lymph nodes close to the breast to see if they contain cancer cells. You either have a test called a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) or surgery to remove some of the lymph nodes under the arm.

Your surgeon might remove just the cancerous area with a border of normal breast tissue. This is called a wide local excision or lumpectomy. After this you usually have several weeks of radiotherapy to the rest of the breast.

Or you might have the whole breast removed. This is called a mastectomy. You can choose to have a new breast made (breast reconstruction). You don't usually need radiotherapy to the breast after this kind of surgery. But you might have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes under your arm if they contain cancer cells. Or you might have surgery to remove the lymph nodes.

Your surgeon might suggest that you have breast reconstruction at the same time as surgery to remove the cancer. But if you need to have radiotherapy after the surgery they are likely to suggest that you wait to have the reconstruction until after the radiotherapy has finished.

You usually have other treatments too.

You might have chemotherapy or hormone therapy before surgery. These treatments can shrink a cancer down and make it possible to have a lumpectomy instead of mastectomy for some women. 

If your cancer cells have receptors for hormone therapy drugs you are likely to have hormone therapy for at least 5 years. 

You might have chemotherapy after your surgery if the cancer had one or more of the following features:

  • was large
  • was high grade
  • had spread into several lymph nodes
  • didn't have hormone receptors

You have a targeted cancer drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin) as well as chemotherapy if your cancer cells have particular proteins called HER2 receptors. You usually have this treatment for a year.

Other stages

Last reviewed: 
04 Oct 2017
  • TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours (7th edition)
    International Union Against Cancer   
    LH Sobin, MK Gospodarowicz, CH Wittekind
    John Wiley and Sons, 2009

  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (7th edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer
    Springer, 2010

  • Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and treatment
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2009 (updated March 2017)

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