The following are terms you may hear or read while educating
yourself about breast health or dealing with breast cancer.
This is not a complete list of medical terms. If you have
any questions about terms not listed here, ask your health-care
therapies: therapies not necessarily proven by scientific
studies such as use of nutritional supplements.
therapy: treatment given in addition to surgery, such
as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.
a decreased number of red blood cells, which may cause fatigue.
Anesthesia: drugs given before and during surgery so
as not to feel discomfort.
medicines that prevent or control nausea and vomiting.
a substance that blocks the effects of estrogen on tumors.
Antiestrogens are used to treat breast cancers that depend
on estrogen for growth, i.e. Tamoxifin.
the circular area around the nipple of the breast. The areola
is typically darker than the rest of the breast.
fluid is drawn from a cyst with a needle and syringe.
lymph nodes: the lymph nodes in the armpit.
lymph node dissection: surgery to remove some of the lymph
nodes from the armpit.
a growth that is NOT cancerous.
therapy: cancer treatment that works by targeting specific
cellular flaws associated with cancer cell growth.
removal of a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope
to see if cancer is present.
Bone marrow transplant: cells are removed from the patients
bone marrow and given back to them after they received high
doses of chemotherapy.
Scan: used to detect possible bone metastasis.
conserving surgery: a portion of the breast is removed
by either lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, usually followed
by radiation therapy.
reconstruction: surgery to rebuild a breast after mastectomy
with either implants or tissue from another part of the body.
self-examination( BSE): examination of ones breasts
for changes. Any change detected should be brought to the
attention of a health-care provider.
calcium deposits in the breast, which can be benign or malignant.
DCIS - cancer that remains within the walls of the
LCIS - is a noninvasive growth limited to the milk
lobules. It is NOT cancer, but is a warning sign of increased
risk of developing breast cancer.
- Carcinoembryonic antigen: a blood test to determine
if treatment is effective. Not used for screening.
treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells.
treatment: therapies such as acupuncture, visualization,
meditation, Tai Chi and yoga, used in addition to traditional
breast examination (CBE): breast examination by a medical
trials: research studies to test new drugs or procedures
on patients to compare current standard treatments with others
that may be equal or better.
SCAN (Computerized Axial Tomography Scan): a scan in which
multiple x rays are taken of all or part of the body to produce
an image of internal organs. Except for the injection of a
dye, needed in some but not all cases, this is a painless
biopsy: removal of a piece of tissue with a needle, which
is examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells are
present.The patient is given a local anesthetic before a core
biopsy is done.
a fluid-filled mass that is usually benign. The fluid can
be removed for analysis.
carcinoma: cancer that is found in the ducts and tissue
of the breast.
channels in the breast that carry milk to the nipple.
A female hormone produced primarily by the ovaries, and in
small amounts by the adrenal gland. Estrogen may promote the
growth of cancer cells.
biopsy: surgery to remove a tumor or mass which is then
studied under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
a type of benign breast tumor composed of fibrous and glandular
tissue. These usually occur in young women.
breast: a term used to describe various benign breast
needle aspiration: a type of biopsy in which cells are
removed using a needle and syringe. The cells are studied
under a microscope to see if cancer is present.
risk counseling and testing: a method to determine an
individuals risk of disease by examining the history
and genetic material of the family. Genetic testing may involve
giving a blood sample.
team: a group of different health professionals who provide
care and service to the patient.
a gene that produces a type of receptor that helps cell growth.
Breast cancer cells with too many Her-2/neu receptors tend
to be fast growing.
therapy: treatment of cancer by removing, blocking or
supportive care not to extend life, but to control symptoms
and improve the quality of life of a patient in the end stages
of their disease. Hospice care is usually provided in patients
abnormal increase in the number of cells in tissue. It is
a benign condition.
technology to produce pictures of the inside of the body,
including mammogram, ultra-sound, CAT scan, MRI and X ray.
a silicone or saline- filled sac inserted under the chest
muscle to restore breast shape after mastectomy.
breast cancer: an aggressive form of breast cancer that
causes the breast to appear reddened and swollen, resembling
a rash or infection. Accounts for only 1% of
Invasive cancer: cancer that has spread from the duct
or lobe into surrounding tissue in the breast.
dorsi flap: a type of reconstruction done after mastectomy,
using muscle and skin from the back.
carcinoma: cancer that arises in the lobules of the breast.
milk-producing glands within the breast.
breast cancer: cancer that is confined to the breast.
surgery to remove a breast tumor and a small amount of surrounding
swelling of the arm and hand caused by excess fluid that collects
after lymph nodes are removed by surgery or after radiation
system: tissue and organs that produce and store lymphocytes,
and the channels that carry the lymph fluid.
nodes: small structures throughout the body that filter
out and destroy bacteria and toxic substances. The lymph nodes
are connected by a system of vessels called lymphatics. The
lymph nodes can collect cancer cells.
(magnetic resonance imaging): an imaging technique that
uses a powerful magnet to transmit radio waves through the
body. The images appear on a computer screen as well as on
film. The procedure is painless.
cancer or cancerous.
a low-dose radiation x ray technique designed to detect changes
in breast tissue which may be breast cancer.
partial or segmental mastectomy - surgery to remove
the tumor and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.
Sometimes lymph nodes in the armpit are removed at the same
or simple mastectomy - removal of only the breast tissue.
Sometimes the lymph nodes in the armpit are removed at the
radical mastectomy - all the breast tissue is removed,
including the lining of the chest muscle and the underarm
oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and hormones
to treat cancer.
cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
a time in a womans life when monthly cycles of menstruation
cease forever and the level of hormones produced by the ovaries
antibody: a type of antibody, produced in a laboratory,
which seeks out and attaches to foreign bodies, such as cancer
chemotherapy: chemotherapy given before surgery to reduce
the size of a tumor.
a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer.
surgery to remove the ovaries.
reproductive organ in the female pelvis. Ovaries are the primary
source of estrogen.
that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but does not cure the
a doctor who examines tissue and cells under a microscope
to decide if they are normal cells or cancer cells.
scan: a body scan that indicates areas of possible cancer
and reconstructive surgeon: a doctor who can rebuild (reconstruct)
a catheter that is surgically implanted under the skin for
chemotherapy infusion and blood draws.
a prediction about the possible outcome of a disease.
an external breast form that fits into a bra after mastectomy.
oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
or its symptoms.
a doctor who reads mammograms and performs other tests such
as x rays or ultrasound.
Radiation therapy: treatment with high-energy rays
to reduce the size of a cancer before surgery or to destroy
any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
surgery to rebuild or reconstruct a breast.
reappearance of cancer.
a term used to describe a decrease or disappearance of
cancer for any
period of time.
factors: anything that increases a persons chance
of developing cancer.
Screening: search for disease before there are symptoms
in the hope of finding it early and at a more treatable phase.
Screening includes breast self-exam, clinical breast exam
opinion: seeking the advice of another medical doctor
with similar credentials to assist in the decision-making
lymph node procedure: the tumor site is injected with
a blue dye and/or a radioisotope which flows to the sentinel
node. This node is removed and examined by a pathologist.
If there are no cancer cells in the sentinel node, no further
nodes are removed.
fraction (SPF): the percentage of cells that are replicating
their DNA. DNA replication usually indicates that a cell is
getting ready to split into two cells. A low SPF indicates
a slow-growing tumor; a high SPF indicates a rapidly growing
Stage: the extent of the cancer. Stage is determined
by the size of the tumor and the presence or absence of cancer
cells in the lymph nodes or at other body sites.
cell: immature cells in the bone marrow and blood that
produce new bone marrow and blood cells.
image-guided procedure that helps locate breast abnormalities
and obtain tissue samples for diagnosis.
a doctor who performs biopsies and other surgical procedures
such as removal of a lump (lumpectomy) or a breast (mastectomy).
Support groups: people with a common experience, such
as a breast cancer diagnosis, who meet to discuss their personal
experiences and to support and educate each other.
therapy: treatment, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy,
that affects the entire body.
a hormone blocker used to treat breast cancer.
Flap (Transverse Rectus Abdominus Muscle Flap): reconstruction
with tissue from the stomach that is used to replace a breast
that has been removed by mastectomy.
an abnormal growth of cells which is either benign or malignant.
marker: levels in the blood that are monitored to determine
if cancer cells are
present. An elevated level may also be caused by other conditions.
an imaging technique that uses sound waves to distinguish
between breast cysts and tumors.
a type of radiation. Low doses of X rays are used to diagnose
disease; high doses of x rays are used to treat cancer. The
term is frequently used to refer to the picture created with