Breast Cancer 101


Breast Cancer Glossary Information


Ablation: In medicine, the removal or destruction of a body part or tissue or its function. Ablation may be performed by surgery, hormones, drugs, radiofrequency, heat, or other methods.

Acupuncture: The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. It is a type of complementary and alternative medicine.

Adjuvant Therapy: Additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy.

Advanced Breast Cancer: Breast cancer that has spread throughout the body, also known as stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer.

Adverse Effect: An undesired effect of a drug or other type of treatment, such as surgery. Adverse effects can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening. Also called adverse event and adverse reaction.

Alopecia: Hair loss.

Amenorrhea: The absence or stopping of menstrual periods.

Aneuploidy: A phenomenon in which cells have extra or missing chromosomes. Around 90% of tumors have cancer cells with extra or missing chromosomes.

Antibody: A protein made by plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) in response to an antigen (a substance that causes the body to make a specific immune response). Each antibody can bind to only one specific antigen. The purpose of this binding is to help destroy the antigen. Some antibodies destroy antigens directly. Others make it easier for white blood cells to destroy the antigen. An antibody is a type of immunoglobulin.

Antibody Therapy: Treatment that uses antibodies to help the body fight cancer, infection, or other diseases.

Anticarcinogen: Having to do with preventing or delaying the development of cancer.

Antiemetic: Medicine preventing nausea and vomiting.

Antigen: Any substance that causes the body to make an immune response against that substance. Antigens include toxins, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or other substances that come from outside the body. Body tissues and cells, including cancer cells, also have antigens on them that can cause an immune response. These antigens can also be used as markers in laboratory tests to identify those tissues or cells.

Antioxidant: A substance that protects cells from the damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules made by the process of oxidation during normal metabolism). Free radicals may play a part in cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging. Antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins A, C, and E, and other natural and manufactured substances.

Areola: The darkly shaded circle of skin surrounding the nipple.

Aromatase Inhibitors: Hormone therapy drugs that lower estrogen levels in the body. Used to treat postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer.

Aspirate: To remove fluid, tissue, or other substance from a body cavity, cyst or tumor, generally through a needle.

Atypical Hyperplasia: Where benign condition in the breast where breast cells grow rapidly. Increases the risk of breast cancer.

Autologous: Taken from an individual’s own tissues, cells, or DNA.

Axilla: The underarm or armpit.

Axillary Dissection: Surgical procedure where some or all lymph nodes in the axilla region are removed to be examined to check for cancer cells.

Axillary Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes in the underarm area.


Benign: Non-cancerous.

Benign Breast Conditions: Non-cancerous breast conditions like cysts and fibroadenomas.

Benign Phyllodes Tumor: A rare benign breast condition (non-cancerous).

Bilateral: A ecting both sides of the body.

Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomy: A surgery where both breasts are removed to prevent cancer from developing

Biobank: A collection of tissue samples and medical data that is used for research studies.

Biological Therapy: A type of treatment that uses substances made from living organisms to treat disease. These substances may occur naturally in the body or may be made in the laboratory. In cancer, some biological therapies stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer. Other biological therapies attack specific cancer cells, which may help keep them from growing or kill them. They may also lessen certain side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Types of biological therapy include immunotherapy (such as cytokines, cancer treatment vaccines, and some antibodies) and some targeted therapies. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biotherapy, and BRM therapy.

Biomarker: A substance found in body fluid or tissues that is a sign of disease or another process in the body. It can also be used to see how well the body responds to a certain treatment.

Biomarker: A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition. Also called molecular marker and signature molecule.

Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist, often to identify cancer cells.

Bisphosphonates: Drugs used to strengthen bones and decrease pain when cancer metastases to the bone.

Blood Count: The count of red and white blood cells and platelets in the blood.

Bone Marrow: The soft, spongy tissue that has many blood vessels and is found in the center of most bones. There are two types of bone marrow: red and yellow. Red bone marrow contains blood stem cells that can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Yellow bone marrow is made mostly of fat and contains stem cells that can become cartilage, fat, or bone cells.

Bone Metastases: Occurs when cancer cells have spread from breast to bones.

Body Mass Index: Also known as BMI, taking into account a person’s height and weight to estimate body fat.

Bone Scan: A procedure to check for abnormal areas or damage in the bones using a very small amount of radioactive material. A bone scan may be used to diagnose bone tumors or cancer that has spread to the bone. Also called bone scintigraphy.

Boost: In breast cancer treatment, refers to an additional dose of radiation to the part of the breast that had the tumor.

BRCA1/BRCA2 Genes: The genes most commonly affected in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) genes. Normally, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes protect you from getting certain cancers. But some mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes prevent them from working properly, so that if you inherit one of these mutations, you are more likely to get breast, ovarian, and other cancers.

Brachytherapy: A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called implant radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and radiation brachytherapy.

Breast Conserving Surgery: Surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast and some normal tissue around it, but not the breast itself. Some lymph nodes under the arm may be removed for biopsy. Part of the chest wall lining may also be removed if the cancer is near it. Also called breast-sparing surgery, lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, quadrantectomy, and segmental mastectomy.

Breast Density: A term used to describe the amount of dense tissue compared to the amount of fatty tissue in the breast on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue has more fibrous and glandular tissue than fat.

Breast Reconstruction: Surgery to reconstruct the look and feel of natural breasts after a full mastectomy.

Breast Self-Examination (BSE): A way a person can check their own breasts by feeling for lumps or other changes. Breast self-exams can help a person learn how their breasts normally look and feel and notice when changes occur.

Breast Tomosynthesis: A procedure that uses x-rays to take a series of pictures of the inside of the breast from many different angles, putting these images together to create 3-D pictures of the breast. Digital breast tomosynthesis is used to check for breast cancer and other changes in the breast, such as abnormal lumps, cysts, or calcifications (calcium deposits). It may allow doctors to see breast tissue, including dense breast tissue, more clearly than with 2-D mammography.


Cachexia: Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness that may occur in patients with cancer.

Calcifications: Deposits of calcium in the breast that appear as white spots on a mammogram. Tight clusters of calcifications can be a sign of breast cancer.

Cancer: Diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. There are several main types of cancer. Also called malignancy.

Carcinoma in Situ: A condition in which abnormal cells that look like cancer cells under a microscope are found only in the place where they first formed and haven’t spread to nearby tissue. At some point, these cells may become cancerous and spread into nearby normal tissue. There are many different types of carcinoma in situ depending on the type of tissue in which it began. In breast cancer, it is called “ductal carcinoma in situ” (of the breast), and it refers to abnormal cells that have been found in the milk ducts or lobules, but not the surrounding tissue. Also called stage 0 disease.

Cardiotoxicity: Damage to the heart muscle causing the heart to become weaker and less efficient, sometimes caused by chemotherapy as well as targeted therapy drugs.

Catheter: A small tube inserted into a body cavity, usually into the bladder, used to deliver or remove fluids from the body.

Centigray: A method used to describe the amount of radiation absorbed in the body.

Chemoprevention: The use of certain drugs or other substances to help lower a person’s risk of developing cancer or keep it from coming back.

Chemotherapy: Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

Chronic: A long-lasting illness, disease, or condition that is generally slow to progress.

Clinical Breast Examination (CBE): An exam done by a healthcare provider to check the look and feel of the breasts and to look for abnormalities.

Clinical Trials: Research studies that test the benefits of possible ways to detect, diagnose, treat, or prevent disease. Volunteers participate in these studies.

Cohort Study: A study that follows a large group of people over time.

Complementary Therapies: Therapies used in addition to standard medical treatments. These therapies are not used to treat cancer, they are used to improve the quality of life and relieve some side effects of cancer or treatment.

Computer-assisted Detection: Software developed to help radiologists find suspicious areas on a digital mammogram.

Contralateral: The other or opposite side. Used in breast cancer to describe the opposite breast.

Co-Payment: In an insurance plan, a copayment is the portion of the medical costs a person must pay out of pocket before the deductible is met.

Co-Insurance: The portion of the insurance you pay after the deductible is met

Cording: Tight cords of tissue stretching down the inside of the arm, which can occur after lymph node removal surgery. Can cause pain and restriction of movement.

Core Needle Biopsy: A needle biopsy that uses a hollow needle to remove samples of tissue from an abnormal area in the breast.

CT Scan: A procedure that uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. A CT scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment, or find out how well treatment is working. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.

Cumulative Risk: Thes um of a person’sc hances of developinga disease over the course of alifetime.

Cytopathologist: A physician who specializes in the laboratory analysis of cells from bodily fluids and tissue samples. A cytopathologist uses microscopes and laboratory tests to diagnose a variety of disease and conditions.

Cytotoxic: Cell Killing, often used to describe chemotherapy.


Definitive Surgery: The whole tumor is removed, and no follow-up surgery needed.

DEXA Scan: A scan that measures bone density. Used to develop, diagnose, or monitor Osteoporosis.

Diabetic Mastopathy: A rare condition in which noncancerous lesions in the breast are diagnosed in mostly premenopausal women with type 1 diabetes. The cause of this condition is unknown. Symptoms may include hard, irregular, easily movable, discrete, painless breast mass(es).

Diagnostic Mammogram: Mammogram used to evaluate symptoms of breast cancer or abnormal findings on a mammogram or breast exam.

Diagnostic Radiologist: Someone specializing in the diagnosis of diseases using X-Rays.

DIEP Flap: A type of breast reconstruction in which blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP), and the skin and fat connected to them are removed from the lower abdomen and used for reconstruction. Muscle is left in place.

Dose-Dense Chemotherapy: A chemotherapy treatment plan in which drugs are given with less time between treatments than in a standard chemotherapy treatment plan.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ: Early stage breast cancer in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, ductal carcinoma in situ may become invasive breast cancer and spread to other tissues. Also called DCIS and intraductal breast carcinoma.


Early Breast Cancer: Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the axillary lymph nodes. This includes ductal carcinoma in situ and stage I, stage IIA, stage IIB, and stage IIIA breast cancers.

Edema: Excess fluid in body tissues that causes swelling.

Enzyme: A protein that speeds up biochemical reactions in the body.

Estradiol: Biologically active and naturally occurring estrogen in women.

Estrogen: A form of the hormone estrogen.

Estrogen Receptors: Specific proteins in cells that estrogen hormones attach to.

Etiology: The cause or causes of a disease.

Excisional Biopsy: Surgical procedure removing the entire abnormal area as well as some surrounding area of the breast.

Expander Implant: Breast implant used in reconstruction where the implant is gradually inflated with saline.


False Negative: A test where a person is tested disease free when in fact, they have a disease.

False Positive: A test result stating a person has a disease when in fact they do not.

Family Medical History: A past and current record of a person’s biological family that helps to determine someone’s predisposition to a disease. Fat Necrosis: A benign mass in the breast grown in a response to breast trauma.

Fat Necrosis: A benign mass in the breast grown in a response to breast trauma.

Fibroadenoma: A benign (not cancer) tumor that most often forms in the breast and is made up of fibrous (connective) tissue and glandular tissue. A fibroadenoma is usually painless. It often feels like a hard, round lump with a smooth, well-defined border that moves easily under the skin of the breast. Fibroadenomas may go away on their own or may need to be removed.

Fibrocystic Condition: A benign breast condition that results in painful cysts or lumps.

Fine Needle Aspiration: During a fine needle aspiration (FNA), a small amount of breast tissue or fluid is removed from a suspicious area with a thin, hollow needle and checked for cancer cells.

First-Line Therapy: The first type of therapy used in a person’s cancer treatment.

Flow Cytometry: A laboratory method that measures the number of cells, the percentage of live cells, and certain characteristics of cells, such as size and shape, in a sample of blood, bone marrow, or other tissue. The presence of tumor markers, such as antigens, on the surface of the cells are also measured. Flow cytometry is used in basic research and to help diagnose and manage cancer.

Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH): A laboratory-based test that helps build out the full picture of a cancer diagnosis by zooming in on the genetic material in the cell – known as chromosomes.

Frozen Section: A portion of tissue is taken and frozen in order to test for cancer cells.


Gail Model: A Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool that allows health professionals to estimate a woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer over the next 5 years and up to age 90 (lifetime risk). The tool uses a woman’s personal medical and reproductive history and the history of breast cancer among her first-degree relatives (mother, sisters, daughters) to estimate absolute breast cancer risk—her chance or probability of developing invasive breast cancer in a defined age interval.

Galactocele: Also known as lactocele, or a lacteal cyst, it is a rare, benign retention cyst of the breast, defined as a milk-filled cyst.

Gene Expression: The process by which a gene gets turned on in a cell to make RNA and proteins. Gene expression may be measured by looking at the RNA, or the protein made from the RNA, or what the protein does in a cell.

Gene Mutation: Genetic mutations are changes to the DNA sequence that happen during cell division when cells are replicating. The DNA sequence gives cells the information they need to perform their functions. If part of the DNA sequence is in the wrong place, isn’t complete or is damaged, it might lead to symptoms of a genetic condition, such as cancer.

Gene Variant of Uncertain Significance: A change in a gene’s DNA sequence that has an unknown effect on a person’s health. There is usually not enough information about a variant of uncertain significance to know whether it increases a person’s risk of developing a disease, such as cancer,

Genetic Susceptibility: An increased chance of developing a disease due to specific changes in a person’s hereditary genes.

Genetic Testing: Analyzing DNA to look for a gene mutation that may show an increased risk for developing a specific disease.

Genome: The complete set of DNA (genetic material) in an organism. In people, almost every cell in the body contains a complete copy of the genome. The genome contains all of the information needed for a person to develop and grow.

Genomics: The study of genes and their functions.

Glandular Tissue: The tissue in the breast that includes the milk ducts and lobules. Hormones: Chemicals made by certain glands and tissues in the body.


Hormones: Hormones are are the body’s chemical messengers, sending signals into the bloodstream and tissues. Hormones work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes, including growth and development, metabolism – how your body gets energy from the foods you eat- sexual function, reproduction, and mood.

Hormone Receptors: Receptors are proteins in or on cells that can attach to certain substances in the blood. Normal breast cells and some breast cancer cells have receptors that attach to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and need these hormones for the cells to grow. Breast cancer cells may have one, both, or none of these receptors. When estrogen and progesterone attach to these receptors, they can stimulate cancer to grow.

Hormone Receptor Status: Shows whether or not a breast cancer needs hormones to grow.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Either estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone used to help reduce menopausal symptoms.

Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy is a type of cancer treatment that removes, blocks, or adds specific hormones to the body. It is also called hormonal therapy or endocrine therapy. A main reason that hormone therapy may be recommended is because some types of cancer use the body’s natural hormones to fuel their growth. Hormone therapy for cancer treatment is not the same as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). These treatments are used to manage menopause symptoms.

Hospice: Care supporting patients and their families to improve the quality of life and focus on easing pain at the end of a patient’s life.

Hypercalcemia: A heightened level of calcium in the blood.

Hyperplasia: A benign breast condition where breast cells grow rapidly and also increases the risk of breast cancer.


Immunosuppression: Suppression of the body’s immune system and its ability to fight infections and other diseases. Immunosuppression may be deliberately induced with drugs, as in preparation for bone marrow or other organ transplantation, to prevent rejection of the donor tissue. It may also result from certain diseases or chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy: Treatment that uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy can boost or change how the immune system works so it can find and attack cancer cells.

Immunohistochemistry (IHC): A test done on human tissue used to detect the amount of HER2/ neu protein on the surface of the cancer cells.

Immunohistochemistry (IHC): A laboratory method that uses antibodies to check for certain antigens (markers) in a sample of tissue. Immunohistochemistry is used to help diagnose cancer and may also be used to help tell the difference between different types of cancer.

Implant: Breast implants can be used for those who want to rebuild a breast after cancer surgery. There are two types of implants - saline and silicone implants. Both have an outer silicone shell but they differ in what they’re filled with and how they feel.

Incisional Biopsy: Surgical biopsy that removes only part of a tumor.

IndemnityPolicy: A prepayment insurancep lan that gives payment for medicalc arei n times of need.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: A rare form of breast cancer with symptoms such as swelling and redness of the breast.

Infraclavicular Lymph Nodes: Lymph node beneath the collar bones:

Infusion: A method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. Also called intravenous infusion.

Intraductal: Can describe a benign or malignant process within the milk duct.

Intraductal Hyperplasia: An excess of cells growing within the milk ducts of the breast.

Intraductal Papilloma: Benign growths beginning in the milk ducts of the breast but cannot be seen. Symptoms include bloody or nipple discharge.

Invasive Breast Cancer: Cancer that has spread from the original location into surrounding breast tissue.



Lactation: Process of producing milk and breastfeeding a child.

Latissimus Dorsi Flap: A type of surgery used to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy. A muscle in the back called the latissimus dorsi, along with skin, fat, and blood vessels, is moved from the back to the chest to form a new breast mound or to form a pocket for a breast implant.

Lesion: An area of abnormal tissue. A lesion may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Linear Accelerator: Device most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer. It delivers high-energy x-rays or electrons to the region of the patient’s tumor.

Liver Scan: An image of the liver that can show the presence of absence of a tumor.

Lobular Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast. Lobular carcinoma may be either lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or invasive lobular carcinoma. LCIS is a noninvasive condition

in which abnormal cells are found in the lobules of the breast. LCIS rarely becomes invasive cancer, but having LCIS in one breast increases the risk of developing invasive cancer in either breast.

Lobules: A small part of a lobe in the breast. A breast lobule is a gland that makes milk.

Local Anesthetic: Anesthesia that only numbs a certain area.

Local Treatment: Treatment such as surgery with or without radiation focusing on a certain area.

Localized Breast Cancer: Cancer contained in the breast but has not spread to surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, or organs.

Locally Advanced Breast Cancer: Stage 3 breast cancer. Cancer that has spread beyond the breast to the skin or chest wall, but not too distant organs, or could be a tumor larger than 5 centimeters.

Local Recurrence: The return of cancer to the same breast or side of the chest.

Lumpectomy: Surgery removing an area of malignant breast tissue.

Lymph Nodes: Part of your body’s immune system, which includes a network of lymph vessels and the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small structures that work as filters for foreign substances, such as cancer cells and infections. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection by attacking and

destroying germs that are carried in through the lymph fluid. Lymph nodes are located in many parts of the body, including the neck, armpit, chest, abdomen (belly), and groin. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection by attacking and destroying germs that are carried in through the lymph fluid.

Lymphedema: Swelling due to poor draining of lymph fluid that can occur after surgery or radiation therapy.


Macrobiotics: Integrative or complementary dietary therapy that includes a mostly vegetarian, organic food diet with certain methods of food preparation.

Malignant: Cancerous.

Mammary Duct Ectasia: A benign (not cancer) condition in which a milk duct under the nipple widens and thickens. This can cause the milk duct to become blocked and fluid to build up inside it. There are usually no symptoms, but sometimes there may be a thick nipple discharge or redness or tenderness of the nipple and nearby breast tissue. Mammary duct ectasia is most common in women who are near

Mammary Glands: The glands that produce milk.

Mammogram: An X-ray image of the breast.

Mastectomy: Surgery to remove part or all of the breast. There are different types of mastectomy that differ in the amount of tissue and lymph nodes removed.

Mastitis: A swelling of the breast that usually occurs during breastfeeding. Symptoms include nipple pain, nipple discharge, fever, redness and hardness over the breast.

Mean Survival Time: The average length of time from either the date of diagnosis or the start of treatment for a disease, such as cancer, that patients diagnosed with the disease are still alive.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. In metastasis, cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumor, travel through the blood or lymph system, and form a new tumor in other organs or tissues of the body. The new, metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are breast cancer cells, not lung cancer cells.

Microcalcifications: Small, clustered deposits of calcium in the breast.

Microvascular Surgery: Surgery that connects small blood vessels.

Modified Radical Mastectomy: Surgery to remove the whole breast, which may include the nipple, areola (the dark-colored skin around the nipple), and skin over the breast. Most of the lymph nodes under the arm are also removed.

Monoclonal Antibodies: A type of protein that can bind to certain targets in the body, such as antigens on the surface of cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are being used in the diagnosis and treatment

of many diseases, including some types of cancer. They can be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive substances directly to cancer cells.

Mortality Rate: Number of deaths in a given group of people over a certain period of time.

MRI: An imaging technique using magnets linked to a computer.

mTOR Inhibitors: A type of targeted therapy drugs that may increase the benefit of hormone therapy.

Multi-centric: Breast cancer in which there is more than one tumor, all of which have formed separately from one another. The tumors are likely to be in different quadrants (sections) of the breast. Multicentric breast cancers are rare.

Multifocal Tumors: Breast cancer in which there is more than one tumor, all of which have arisen from one original tumor. The tumors are likely to be in the same quadrant (section) of the breast.

Multimodality Therapy: Use of two or more treatment methods in order to get the best results.


Naturopathy: A medical system based on using natural elements that help the body heal itself.

Neoadjuvant Therapy: Treatment given as a first step to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, which is usually surgery, is given. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

Neoplasia: Abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth.

Neoplasm: An abnormal mass of tissue that forms when cells grow and divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Also called tumor.

Neutropenia: A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) in the blood.

Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy: Surgery removing the breast and some surrounding tissue but leaving the nipple and areola intact.

Node-Negative: Cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Node-Positive: Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.

Non-Invasive: Treatment that does not penetrate the skin in any way.

Nonpalpable: A nonpalpable breast mass is one that cannot be found during clinical examination of the breast, but can be identified by ultrasound, mammography, and MRI; a mass diagnosed as cancer is termed nonpalpable BC.

Normal Tissue: Cancer-free cells.

Nuclear Medicine Imaging: A medical specialty that uses radioactive tracers (radiopharmaceuticals) to assess bodily functions and to diagnose and treat disease.


Occult Breast Cancer: An axillary metastatic carcinoma without detection of a primary breast lesion. It is uncommon.

Oncologist: A physician specializing in the planning and overseeing of cancer treatment.

Oncoplastic Surgeon: A breast cancer surgeon with training in plastic surgery.

Oophorectomy: Surgical removal of the ovaries.

Opiate: A drug containing opium used to treat pain.

Opioid: A drug used to treat pain.

Osteopenia: A loss of bone mineral density (BMD) that weakens bones

Osteoporosis: Loss of bone mass and density that causes bones to become fragile and weak.

Ovarian Suppression: Using drugs or surgery to stop the ovaries from working.


Paget Disease of the Breast: A rare type of cancer involving the skin of the nipple and, usually, the darker circle of skin around it, which is called the areola. Most people with Paget disease of the breast also have one or more tumors inside the same breast. These breast tumors are either ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive breast cancer. Also known as Paget disease of the nipple and mammary Paget disease

Palliative Therapy: Care given to patients whose cancer cannot be cured. Used mostly to relieve pain and alleviate symptoms.

Palpable: A breast lump or abnormal area that can be felt.

Palpation: To examine using the hands or fingers.

PARP inhibitors: A substance that blocks an enzyme in cells called PARP. PARP helps repair DNA when it becomes damaged. In cancer treatment, blocking PARP may help keep cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, causing them to die. PARP inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy. Also called poly (ADP- ribose) polymerase inhibitor.

Pathologic Response: Describes how much of the tumor is left in the breast and/or lymph nodes.

Pathologic Complete Response: The lack of all signs of cancer in tissue samples removed during surgery or biopsy after treatment with radiation or chemotherapy.

Pathologist: A doctor who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Perimenopause: The time before menopause when periods become irregular and some menopausal symptoms begin.

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter: A PICC is left in the body to allow the medicine to be delivered through a vein for weeks at a time.

Permanent Section: Thin slices of biopsy tissue that are mounted on slides and looked at under a microscope.

PET Scan: A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is taken up. Because cancer cells often take up more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called positron emission tomography scan.

Phyllodes Tumor: A rare tumor that usually forms in the connective tissue of the breast. Phyllodes tumors tend to grow quickly and get large, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Most are benign (not cancer), but some may be malignant (cancer) or borderline (in between benign and malignant). Phyllodes tumors are usually removed by surgery, but they can come back. They are most common in women between 40 and 50 years of age. Also called CSP and cystosarcoma phyllodes of the breast.

Pituitary Gland: Part of the brain that controls growth and other glands in the body.

Placebo: An inactive substance or other intervention that looks the same as, and is given the same way as, an active drug or treatment being tested. The effects of the active drug or other intervention are compared to the effects of the placebo.

Port-a-cath: A device used to draw blood and give treatments, including intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, or drugs such as chemotherapy and antibiotics. The port is placed under the skin and is attached to a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) that is guided (threaded) into a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. A port-a-cath may stay in place for many weeks, months, or years. Also called port.

Precision Medicine: Sometimes known as “personalized medicine,” it is an innovative approach to tailoring disease prevention and treatment that takes into account differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles

Primary Tumor: The original cancer.

Progesterone: A type of hormone made by the body that plays a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Progesterone Receptor: Proteins on cells that progesterone hormones attach to. A high number of progesterone receptors usually means the cancer needs progesterone to grow.

Progestin: Any substance that has e ects of progesterone on the body.

Prognosis: The expected or probable outcome of disease.

Prognostic Factors: Factors determining prognosis.

Progression: The growth of cancer.

Progression-Free Survival: The time span a person can have and live with cancer before it spreads.

Proliferative: Used in terms of how fast a tumor is growing.

Prophylactic Mastectomy: When one or both breastsa re removed in order to prevent breast cancer.

Prosthetic: An artificial breast form that can be worn under clothing before reconstructive surgery.

Punch Biopsy: The removal of a small circle of skin to be tested.


Quadrantectomy: Surgery where one quadrant or 25 percent of the breast is removed.

Quality of Care: A measure of how well breast cancer is treated and how well a person is cared for during and after treatment.

Quality of Life: A measure of a person’s well-being and his/her overall enjoyment of life.


RAD (radiation absorbed dose): The amount of radiation absorbed by the tissues. One RAD is equal to one centi-gray.

Radial Scars: A benign (not cancer) area of hardened tissue in the breast that looks like a scar when viewed under a microscope. Radial scars often occur in both breasts, and more than one lesion is usually present in each breast. They usually cannot be felt and do not cause symptoms but may look like breast cancer on a mammogram, especially if the lesions are large. A biopsy is usually needed to tell the difference between these lesions and breast cancer. Radial scars may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. Also called complex sclerosing lesion.

Radiation Oncologist: A doctor who has special training in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy): The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy).

Radical Mastectomy: Surgery to remove the whole breast, all of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the chest wall muscles under the breast. For many years, radical mastectomy was the type of breast cancer surgery used most often, but it is rarely used now. It may be used only when breast cancer has spread to the chest wall muscles. Also called Halsted radical mastectomy.

Radiopaque: Radiopaque objects block radiation rather than allow it to pass through. Metal, for instance, is radiopaque, so metal objects that a patient may have swallowed are visible on X-rays. Radiopaque dyes are used in radiology to enhance X-ray pictures of internal anatomic structures. The opposite of radiopaque is radiolucent.

Radiologist: A physician who reads and interprets X-rays, mammograms and other scans related to diagnosis or follow-up; radiologists also perform needle biopsy and wire localization procedures.

Regimen: A treatment plan.

Regional Lymph Nodes: In breast cancer, the axillary (in the underarm area) lymph nodes, infraclavicular (under the collarbone) lymph nodes, supraclavicular (above the collarbone) lymph nodes and internal and internal mammary nodes.

Regression: A decrease in the size of a tumor or in the extent of cancer in the body.

Relative Risk: A measure used to describe the increase or decrease in risk related to as specific risk factor.

Relative Survival: A measure used to compare the survival of people who have a certain disease with those who do not, at a given time, after diagnosis or treatment.

Remission: When the signs and symptoms of a disease partly or completely disappear.

Risk-Benefit Ratio: The relationship between the possible or expected side e ects and benefits of a treatment or procedure.

RNA (Ribonucleic Acid): A molecule made by cells containing genetic information that has been copied from DNA; RNA performs functions related to making proteins.


Saline: A saltwater solution similar tothat found in IV fluids; this can be usedt o fill the breast implant.

Saline implant: A type of breast implant that contains a sterile liquid solution; this can be used in breast reconstruction.

Scalp Cooling: Scalp cooling systems and cold caps are tightly fitting, helmet-like hats filled with a cold gel or liquid that are worn during chemotherapy infusions. These devices have helped many people keep some or quite a bit of their hair during chemotherapy that can cause hair loss. They work by narrowing the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, which reduces the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles. The cold also decreases the hair follicles’ metabolic activity, which makes the cells divide more slowly and protects the follicles from the chemotherapy.

Sclerosing Adenosis: A benign (not cancerous) condition in which scar-like fibrous tissue is found in the breast lobules (the glands that make milk). In sclerosing adenosis, the lobules are larger than normal. This may result in a breast lump that may be large enough to feel. Sclerosing adenosis may also cause pain in the breast. A biopsy may be needed to tell the difference between sclerosing adenosis and breast cancer. Sclerosing adenosis may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.

Screening Mammogram: X-ray of the breast used to find early signs of breast cancer in a woman who does not have any known breast problems or symptoms.

Second Primary Tumor: A second breast cancer that develops in a different location from the first.

Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM): A drug that can either block the e ects of estrogen or behave life estrogen, depending on the part of the body being treated.

Sentinel Node Biopsy: The surgical removal and testing of the sentinel, or first, lymph node(s) in the chest and underarm area filtering lymph fluid from the tumor site to see if the node(s) contains cancer cells.

Seroma: A mass or lump caused by a buildup of clear fluid in a tissue, organ, or body cavity. It usually goes away on its own but may need to be drained with a needle. It often occurs after breast surgery.

Silicone Gel Implant: Medical-grade, solid form of silicone used for breast implants.

Skin-Sparing Mastectomy: During a skin-sparing mastectomy, the surgeon removes all the breast tissue, the nipple, and in some cases the areola, but most of the skin over the breast is left intact. Usually a sentinel lymph node dissection or axillary lymph node dissection are also done (unless the mastectomy is prophylactic).

Stage of Cancer: A way to indicate the extent of the cancer within the body.

Standard Treatment: The usual treatment of a disease or condition currently in widespread use and considered to be of proven e ectiveness based on scientific evidence and past experience.

Stereotactic Needle Biopsy: A procedure that uses mammography to precisely identify and biopsy an abnormality within the breast.

Supraclavicular Lymph Nodes: The lymph nodes above the clavicle (collarbone).

Surgeon: Physician specializing in the treatment of cancer using surgical procedures.

Surgical Margin: The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has not been removed.

Surgical Oncologist: A physician specializing in the treatment of cancer using surgical procedures.

Systemic Treatment: Treatment using substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.


Tamoxifen: A drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer to prevent invasive breast cancer in women who have had ductal carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells in the ducts of the breast), and to prevent breast cancer in women who are at a high risk of developing the disease. It blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen in breast tissue, which may help keep breast cancer cells from growing.

Targeted Therapy: Drug therapies designed to attack specific molecular agents or pathways involved in the development of cancer.

Therapeutic Touch: A practice intended to treat medical conditions by manipulating the “human energy field.” Practitioners of therapeutic touch believe they can heal medical conditions by unblocking areas of congested energy that hovers just above a person’s skin. People use therapeutic touch for anxiety and stress. It is also used for cancer-related pain, insomnia, chronic pain, quality of life, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Tissue: A group or layer of cells that work together to perform a specific function.

Total Mastectomy: Surgery to remove the whole breast, which may include the nipple, areola (the dark- colored skin around the nipple), and skin over the breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed to check for cancer. Also called simple mastectomy.

TP53 Gene: A gene that makes a protein that is found inside the nucleus of cells and plays a key role in controlling cell division and cell death. Mutations (changes) in the TP53 gene may cause cancer cells to grow and spread in the body. These changes have been found in a genetic condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome and in many types of cancer. The TP53 gene is a type of tumor suppressor gene. Also called p53 gene and tumor protein p53 gene.

Trastuzumab (Herceptin): A drug that is a specially made antibody that targets cancer cells with a lot of protein called HER2/NEU on their surfaces.

Transverse Rectus Abdominis Muscle Flap (TRAM): A type of surgery used to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy. A muscle in the lower abdomen called the rectus abdominis, along with skin, fat, and blood vessels, is moved from the lower abdomen to the chest. A transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap forms a natural-looking breast, so the patient usually does not need a breast implant. It is a type of breast reconstruction. Also called TRAM flap.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer: Breast cancer in which the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER or PR) and also don’t make any or too much of the protein called HER2. (The cells test “negative” on all 3 tests.) TNBC differs from other types of invasive breast cancer in that it tends to grow and spread faster.

Tumor Grade: A description of a tumor based on how abnormal the cancer cells and tissue look under a microscope and how quickly the cancer cells are likely to grow and spread.

Tumor Profiling: A laboratory method that checks for the presence of certain genes, proteins, or other molecules in a sample of blood or tumor tissue. Tumor profiling may provide information about certain molecular or genetic changes in a tumor, such as gene mutations or other changes in tumor DNA. It may be used to help plan treatment or predict whether cancer will come back or spread to other parts of the body.

Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors: A substance that blocks the action of enzymes called tyrosine kinases. Tyrosine kinases are a part of many cell functions, including cell signaling, growth, and division. These enzymes may be too active or found at high levels in some types of cancer cells, and blocking them may help keep cancer cells from growing. Some tyrosine kinase inhibitors are used to treat cancer. They are a type of targeted therapy.


Ultrasound: A procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at tissues and organs inside the body. The sound waves make echoes that form pictures of the tissues and organs on a computer screen (sonogram). Ultrasound may be used to help diagnose diseases, such as cancer.

Usual Hyperplasia: An excessive growth of benign cells in an area of the breast, but the cells don’t look abnormal. This can happen along the inner lining of the breast duct (tube that carries milk to the nipple) or the lobule (small round sac that produces milk). There is a slight increase in breast cancer risk associated with this condition; however, the vast majority of women will never have a problem.


Vacuum-assisted Biopsy: A procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the breast with the use of an imaging device guiding a hollow probe connected to a vacuum device. Also called VACB and vacuum-assisted core biopsy.

Vaginal Atrophy: A condition in which the tissues lining the inside of the vagina (birth canal) become thin, dry, and inflamed. This is caused by a decrease in the amount of estrogen (a female hormone) made by the body. Also called atrophic vaginitis.


Wide Local Excision (WLE): A surgical procedure in which a tumor or other abnormal lesion is removed along with some normal tissue around it. The amount of normal tissue removed depends on how deep or how large the tumor being removed is.

Wire Localization (Needle Localization): A procedure done before breast cancer surgery to find where the breast abnormality is (The wire marks the spot) so that the surgeon knows exactly what tissue to take out. This procedure is done by mammogram or ultrasound guidance.


X-ray: A type of radiation used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.



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