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Treatments by Breast Cancer Stage

Treatment Options Stage II Breast Cancer

With stage II breast cancer, the cancer is still contained within the breast (stage 2A), with a tumor size less than 2cm or in nearby lymph nodes or 2cm to 5 cm with no lymph node involvement. Stage 2B is when the tumor measures 2 cm to 5 cm with lymph node involvement or larger than 5 cm with no lymph node involvement. The eight-year survival rate for women with stage II cancer is estimated to be 70%. This means that 70% of these women will live eight years, or longer after diagnosis.

A combination of treatments are used to treat stage II breast cancer.

  • Surgery. For smaller tumors, you might get a lumpectomy (wide local excision), in which only the tumor and some of the surrounding normal tissue are removed. For larger tumors, you might need a mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed. In either case, the surgeon will remove some of the lymph nodes. After a mastectomy, you might get breast reconstruction surgery.
  • Radiation therapy is standard for women who get a lumpectomy. It can kill cancer cells that were missed during surgery. Some women with stage II cancer who get a mastectomy will also need radiation, especially if the tumor was large or if there were lymph nodes involved with cancer.
  • Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery. This treatment can destroy any remaining cancer cells that were missed. Chemotherapy may also be used as neoadjuvant therapy -- treatment before surgery to shrink a tumor. If it works, the tumor might then be small enough to remove in a lumpectomy.
  • Endocrine therapy is often used after surgery in women who have hormone receptor-positive cancer. In these women, endocrine therapy can prevent the tumor from getting the hormone it needs to grow. These drugs include tamoxifen for pre-menopausal women and aromatase inhibitors Arimidex, Femara, and Aromasin for post-menopausal women. Women who haven't reached menopause may consider having their ovaries removed or taking drugs to stop the ovaries from making hormones that help cancer grow.
  • Biological therapy . In about 25% of women with breast cancer, an excess of a protein known as HER2 makes the cancer spread quickly. Herceptin is a drug that's been approved to treat women with metastatic breast cancer that is HER2-positive. It stops this protein from making the cancer grow and makes chemotherapy more effective. It is most often used in combination with chemotherapy. Multiple studies have shown an improved outcome when Herceptin is added to chemotherapy, and continued for one year in the adjuvant setting of HER- positive breast cancers
  • Clinical trials are open to many women with stage II cancer. A clinical trial may allow you access to cutting-edge treatments. Many new therapies such as new drugs, new treatments, and new combinations, are in current clinical trials.


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