Glossary of Terms: Breast Cancer & Reconstruction

Abnormal mammogram
Not usual or not normal. The types of findings on a mammogram can include a mass, solid-appearing dense areas, calcifications and asymmetry. An abnormal finding can be a common occurance, frequently if a woman has dense or lumpy breast tissue. Most importantly, abnormal does not mean cancer. Many abnormal mammograms prove to be benign.

Infection which has formed a pocket of pus.

A benign tumor of glandular tissue. These tumors are often well-defined and usually stay contained. Fibroadenoma is a major cause of false positive readings in mammography.

Cancer arising in a gland-forming tissue. Breast cancer is a type of adenocarcinoma.

Adjuvant chemotherapy/hormone therapy
The use of either chemotherapy or hormone therapy after initial treatment either by surgery or radiotherapy. The aim of adjuvant therapy is to destroy any cancer that has spread.

Adrenal gland
A small gland found above each kidney that secretes cortisone, adrenaline, aldosterone, and many other important hormones.

Hair loss. It is usually partial, although it can be complete. Full recovery usually occurs fairly quickly.

Absence or stoppage of menstrual period.

Hormone that produces male characteristics.

Loss of appetite.

A medication used to help combat nausea and vomiting.

See tumor suppressor gene.

Australian and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group. This is a trans-Tasman clinical trials group that conducts research on new treatments for breast cancer.

Area of pigment around the nipple.

Putting a hypodermic needle into a tissue and drawing back on the syringe to obtain fluid or cells.

Not matching.

Ataxia telangiectasia
Disease of the nervous system; carriers of the gene are more sensitive to radiation and have a higher risk of cancer.

Abnormal changes in cells. See also dysplasia.

Atypical hyperplasia
Cells that are not only abnormal but increased in size.

Added to, such as an augmented breast; a breast that has had an implant added to it.

From the same person. An autologous blood transfusion is blood removed and then transfused back to the same person at a later date.

Average risk (for breast cancer)
The chances of getting breast cancer without the presence of any specific factors known to be associated with the disease.

The armpit.

Axillary dissection
Surgery to remove fat and lymph nodes from the armpit. It can be done either at the same time as a mastectomy or as a separate operation. It can be partial or complete.

Axillary lymph node dissection
Surgical removal of lymph nodes found in the armpit region.

Axillary lymph nodes
Lymph nodes found in the armpit area.

Not malignant; not cancer. A benign tumor cannot spreading.

Involving both sides, such as both breasts.

Biological response modifier
Usually natural substances, such as a colony-stimulating factor that stimulates the bone marrow to make blood cells in order to alter the body's natural response.

Removal of a sample of tissue or cells from the body to assist in diagnosis of a disease.

Body image
A person's conception of and feelings about his or her body -- its form, size, shape, and the way it fits society's norms. Self-esteem and sexuality are linked with body image.

Bone marrow
The soft, inner part of large bones that produces blood cells.

Bone scan
A test to see whether the cancer has spread to any bones.

An extra dose of radiation given to a smaller area, usually the site where the tumor was removed, after the rest of the breast has been irradiated.

Brachial plexus
A bundle of nerves in the armpit which go on to supply the arm.

Breast cancer gene 1. A gene which is defective in about 2% of women with breast cancer. See also familial breast cancer.

Breast cancer gene 2. Another gene implicated in familial breast cancer.

Breast conservation
See breast conserving surgery.

Breast conserving surgery
Surgery where the cancer is removed, together with a margin of normal breast tissue. The whole breast is not removed.

Breast reconstruction
The formation of a breast shape after a total mastectomy.

Breast sharing
A method of reconstruction in which some of the opposite breast is used to reconstruct the missing breast.

Drug used to block the hormone prolactin.

The deposition of calcium salts in body tissues. In the breast, it can be associated with either normal or cancerous tissue.

Carcinoembroyonic antigen (CEA)
Non-specific (not specific to cancer) blood test used to follow women with metastatic breast cancer to help determine if the treatment is working.

Substance that can cause cancer.

A malignant tumor arising from epithelial cells, which are cells lining the external or internal surfaces of the body. Carcinomas spread to nearby tissues. They may also spread to distant sites such as the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and bones. See also metastasis.

Carcinoma in situ
A malignant tumor which has not yet become invasive but is confined to the layer of cells from which it arose. A form of pre-invasive cancer.

Carcinoma NOS
Invasive ductal carcinoma not otherwise specified. Comprises 70 percent of all breast cancers.

Cathepsin D
A protein secreted by breast cancer cells. It may be a marker of poor prognosis.

Infection of the soft tissues.

A measure of radiation. 1 centigray = 1 rad.

The use of drugs or vitamins to prevent cancer in people who have precancerous conditions or a high risk of cancer, or to prevent the recurrence of cancer in people who have already been treated for it

The use of medications (drugs) that are toxic to cancer cells. These drugs kills the cells, or prevent or slow their growth.

A body in the cell nucleus carrying genes. See gene.

See complete local excision.

Clinical trial
Research conducted with the patient's permission that usually involves a comparison of two or more treatments or diagnostic methods. The aim is to gain better understanding of the underlying disease process and/or methods to treat it.

Combined modality treatment
The integration of two or more forms of treatment to combat the cancer. For example: radiation and surgery; radiation and chemotherapy; surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Comedo carcinoma in situ
An aggressive type of breast carcinoma.

Complete local excision
The complete removal of a tumor with a surrounding margin of normal breast tissue. Also known as CLE and breast conserving surgery.

Conservative surgery
Surgery in which the breast is not removed. Also known as breast conserving surgery.

Formation of thick scar tissue; in the breast a contracture can form around an implant.

Coping strategies
Strategies or behaviors used to reduce psychological stress. Coping strategies may be influenced by personality style and the specific situation and may change over time.

Core biopsy
The sampling of breast tissue with a needle to give a tiny cylinder of tissue for examination by a pathologist.

The appearance of the breast following treatment.

Type of DCIS where the cells filling the duct have punched-out areas.

Chemotherapy is usually administered at regular intervals. A cycle is a course of chemotherapy followed by a period in which the body recovers.

Fluid-filled sac.

Cystosarcoma phylloides
Unusual type of breast tumor.

One who specializes in studying cells.

Study of cells.

Causing the death of cells. The term usually refers to drugs using in chemotherapy.

Drug used to block hormones from the pituitary gland, used in endometriosis and (rarely) breast pain.

Ductal carcinoma in situ. A form of breast cancer which requires special consideration. It spreads along the ducts of the breast, rather than forming a lump.

Inability to acknowledge something apparent to others. It can be an involuntary coping strategy.

A pervasive and sustained lowering of mood. Other features include tearfulness, guilt, irritability, loss of interest in life, loss of energy, poor concentration, poor sleep, and loss of appetite.

Diethylstilbesterol (DES)
Synthetic estrogen once used to prevent miscarriages and now shown to cause vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took it. DES is sometimes used to treat metastatic breast cancer.

Clearly defined. Differentiated tumor cells are similar in appearance to normal cells.

Disease-free survival
The time from the primary treatment of the breast cancer to the first evidence of cancer recurrence.

Dry desquamation
A reaction to radiotherapy involving the shedding of dry skin.

Ductal carcinoma in situ

Passages along which milk passes during breastfeeding.

An abnormal growth of cells that look something like cancer cells, but do not have all the features of cancer. See also atypia.

Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. A group of American oncologists that conducts trials on cancer treatments.

ECOG performance status
A five point scale developed by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group.
0 - No symptoms of cancer
1 - Presence of cancer-related symptoms
2 - Spends less than 50% of daylight hours in bed
3 - Spends more than 50%, but less than 100% of daylight hours in bed
4 - Totally confined to bed

Skin irritation characterized by redness and open weeping.

Swelling caused by a collection of fluid in the soft tissues.

Epidermal growth factor receptor. A protein on some cancer cells. Cancers with plenty of EGF-R are likely to be aggressive. See also erbB-2.

Instrument used in surgery to cut, coagulate, or destroy tissue by heating it with an electric current.

The smallest particle of negative electricity.

Plug or clot of tumor cells within a blood vessel.

European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer. A group that carries out clinical trials on cancer therapies.

EORTC core quality of life questionnaire (QLQ)
A questionnaire designed to determine the impact on quality of life of different treatments.

Epidermal growth factor receptor
See EGF-R.

Estrogen receptor. Protein found on some cells to which estrogen molecules will attach. If a tumor is positive for estrogen receptors, it is sensitive to hormones.

Also known as HER2/neu. A protein similar to EGF-R. Tumors with plenty of erbB-2 are usually aggressive.

Redness of the skin, which is the earliest sign of radiation reaction.

Female sex hormones produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, placenta, and fat.

Excisional biopsy
Taking the whole lump out.

False negative mammogram
A mammogram that misses cancer when it is present.

False positive mammogram
A mammogram that indicates breast cancer is present when the disease is truly absent.

Fat necrosis
A benign breast change where a firm, irregular mass of dead fat cells forms as a result of trauma to the breast. It may appear years after the injury or surgery.

Benign breast lumps made up of normal breast cells. They are firm, rubbery, movable and often rounded and are most commonly found in younger women.

Fibrocystic breast condition
A benign breast condition caused by cyclical hormones. Multiple cysts of various sizes develop in one or both breasts and can cause discomfort or pain that fluctuates with the woman's menstrual cycle.

A clogged milk duct, often associated with childbirth.

Excessive growth of cells that is benign. Several types of benign breast conditions involve hyperplasia.

In situ
A term that refers to cancers that have not grown beyond their original site.

Intraductal disease
Disease residing within the duct of the breast which may be benign or malignant.

Inverted nipple
The turning inward of the nipple. Usually a congenital condition; but, if it occurs where it has not previously existed, it can be a sign of breast cancer.

Process of being able to produce milk from the breasts.

Any abnormal area of tissue. Can be used to describe a benign or malignant growth.

A benign fatty tumor which forms a lump.

Milk-producing glands of the breast. See anatomy of the breast.

Any kind of abnormal mass.

State of being cancerous.

Pain occurring in the breast.

Infection of the breast.

Abnormal new growth of cells. Neoplasms may be benign or malignant.

Increased density of breast tissue, most often due to hormonal changes, which cause the breast to feel lumpy in texture. It usually occurs in both breasts and is not a risk factor for breast cancer.

The study of disease through the microscopic examination of body tissues and organs.

Tumors that arise from bone, muscle, fat, or connective tissue.

Sclerosing adenosis
A benign breast disease that involves the excessive growth of tissues in the breast's lobules.

An abnormal growth of tissue. Tumors may be either benign or cancerous

  • Friday, 15 June 2012