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