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Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB, depending on where the cancer has spread. In stage IIA, cancer has spread into the muscle layer of the esophagus wall. The cancer cells are grade 3. Grade 3 cancer cells look more abnormal under a microscope and grow and spread more quickly than grade 1 and 2 cancer cells. In stage IIB, cancer (1) has spread into the connective tissue layer of the esophagus wall; or (2) is in the mucosa or submucosa layer and may have spread into the muscle layer of the esophagus wall. Cancer is found in 1 or 2 lymph nodes near the tumor.