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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


Lattisimous dorsi flap: a type of reconstruction done after mastectomy, using muscle and skin from the back.

Lobular carcinoma: cancer that arises in the lobules of the breast.

Lobules: milk-producing glands within the breast.

Localized breast cancer: cancer that is confined to the breast.

Lumpectomy: surgery to remove a breast tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue.

Lymphedema: swelling of the arm and hand caused by excess fluid that collects after lymph nodes are removed by surgery or after radiation treatment.

Lymphatic system: tissue and organs that produce and store lymphocytes, and the channels that carry the lymph fluid.

Lymph 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.

MRI (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.

Malignant: cancer or cancerous.

Mammogram: 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 time.

total or simple mastectomy - removal of only the breast tissue. Sometimes the lymph nodes in the armpit are removed at the same time.

modified radical mastectomy - all the breast tissue is removed, including the lining of the chest muscle and the underarm lymph nodes.

Medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and hormones to treat cancer.

Metastatic: cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Menopause: a time in a woman’s life when monthly cycles of menstruation cease forever and the level of hormones produced by the ovaries decreases.

Monoclonal antibody: a type of antibody, produced in a laboratory, which seeks out and attaches to foreign bodies, such as cancer cells.