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Breast Cancer

Glossary: Breast Cancer

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 11:03

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are definitions of medical terms related to breast cancer.

Adjuvant therapy: Treatment given in addition to surgery, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy.

Atypical hyperplasia: Cells that are both abnormal (atypical) and increased in number.

Axillary lymph node dissection: Surgery to remove some of the lymph nodes in the armpit.

Benign: Not cancerous or malignant.

Breast-conserving surgery (BCS): Surgery that removes only the tumor and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue. Examples are lumpectomy and segmental mastectomy.

Breast self-examination (BSE): Examination of one's own breasts on a regular basis.

Cancer: A group of diseases in which cells are changed in appearance and function, grow out of control, and form a 'tumor' (mass) that tends to spread to surrounding tissues or organs.

Chemotherapy: Treatment using drugs that kill or damage cancer cells.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT): see Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Excisional biopsy: Surgery that completely removes a small breast lump during tissue sampling. The tissue is studied under the microscope to see if cancer cells are present. Excisional biopsy usually is performed if the physician suspects that a breast lump is benign (not cancerous). Excisional biopsy is NOT a lumpectomy.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA): Procedure that removes a sample of fluid and/or cells from a breast lump by means of a fine needle and syringe.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone/progestins) used by older women to relieve the symptoms of menopause.

Hormone therapy: Cancer treatment in which drugs are used to slow tumor growth by blocking the effect of certain hormones; employed to prevent cancer recurrence.

Implant: Artificial device used in surgical reconstruction to restore breast shape. May be filled with saline (salt water) or silicone (gel).

Malignant: Cancerous. A growth that tends to spread to surrounding tissues or organs.

Menopause: Time when a woman's monthly menstrual periods cease. Menopause often is referred to as the "change of life."

Metastasis: Spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Common sites for breast cancer metastases are the lungs, bones, liver, and brain.

Modified radical mastectomy: Surgery that removes the entire breast, including some axillary (underarm) lymph nodes; also known as Patey mastectomy. In some cases, the pectoralis minor (upper chest muscle) may be removed if it is cancerous or blocks the removal of lymph nodes.

Oncogene: Gene that contributes to cancer; e.g., HER2/neu

Partial mastectomy: Non-specific term for surgery in which part of the breast is removed. The axillary (underarm) lymph nodes are taken out through the original incision or via a separate incision in the armpit itself. In general, between 10 and 15 lymph nodes are removed during partial mastectomy.

Quadrantectomy: Partial mastectomy in which about one-quarter of the breast is removed along with the tumor; also known as segmentectomy,segmental mastectomy, or tylectomy.

Radiation therapy: Treatment for breast cancer that uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.

Reconstruction: Surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast.

Recurrence: Reappearance of the cancer; also known as relapse. There are three kinds of recurrence: local - at the same site; regional - near the original site; and distant - in another site.

Segmentectomy or segmental mastectomy: see Quadrantectomy

Simple mastectomy: see Total mastectomy.

Tamoxifen: Hormonal drug used in cancer therapy. Tamoxifen blocks estrogen - a hormone necessary for the growth of some breast cancers - and therefore helps to shrink them.

Total mastectomy: Surgery to remove the entire breast, but not the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes or muscular tissue beneath the breast; also known as simple mastectomy.

Tumor: A cellular growth that forms a progressively enlarging mass. A tumor is benign unless it tends to invade surrounding tissues and organs, in which case it is malignant.

Tylectomy: see Quadrantectomy.

Breast Cancer