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The Komen Mission:
To eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening, and treatment.

Glossary of Terms

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 provider.

Glossary of Terms by First Letter


Estrogen: A female hormone produced primarily by the ovaries, and in small amounts by the adrenal gland. Estrogen may promote the growth of cancer cells.

Excisional biopsy: surgery to remove a tumor or mass which is then studied under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.

Fibroadenoma: a type of benign breast tumor composed of fibrous and glandular tissue. These usually occur in young women.

Fibrocystic breast: a term used to describe various benign breast conditions.

Fine 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.

Genetic risk counseling and testing: a method to determine an individual’s risk of disease by examining the history and genetic material of the family. Genetic testing may involve giving a blood sample.

Health-care team: a group of different health professionals who provide care and service to the patient.

Her-2/neu: 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.

Hormone therapy: treatment of cancer by removing, blocking or adding hormones.

Hospice: 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 patient’s home.

Hyperplasia: abnormal increase in the number of cells in tissue. It is a benign condition.

Imaging: technology to produce pictures of the inside of the body, including mammogram, ultra-sound, CAT scan, MRI and X ray.

Implant: a silicone or saline- filled sac inserted under the chest muscle to restore breast shape after mastectomy.

Inflammatory 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
breast cancers.

Invasive cancer: cancer that has spread from the duct or lobe into surrounding tissue in the breast.