The records of 15 women presenting with axillary nodal metastases from an occult primary consistent with breast carcinoma were reviewed. Nine patients underwent complete axillary clearance and in six the clinical mass only was excised. Radiotherapy to the axilla was given to eight patients. One woman underwent mastectomy at the time of axillary surgery but no tumour was found in the excised breast; in the remaining 14 patients the breast was left untreated. One premenopausal woman received adjuvant systemic chemotherapy and one postmenopausal patient was given tamoxifen. Three patients died from recurrent disease at 16, 50 and 56 months after treatment of the axillary mass; one is alive at 42 months with systemic recurrence. In two of these patients the tumour in the breast became apparent before other metastases. Eleven patients survived for a median of 92 (range 18–144) months without evidence of disease. The prognosis of this patient group is better than that generally reported for stage II breast carcinoma.