Breast Health Glossary

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Breast Health Glossary  

All definitions have been adapted from MedlinePlus and the American Cancer Society.  The information on this website is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not replace the expertise of your doctor.  It is meant to serve as a resource for patients and families to gain a better understanding of breast cancer and aid you in making informed decisions. Always remember to share questions and concerns with your doctor.

  1. Axillary node- any of the lymph nodes of the axilla (underarm); also called axillary glands.
  2. Benign- of mild type that does not threaten health or life; not cancerous.
  3. Biopsy- the removal and examination of tissue or fluid from a living body.
  4. Bloodstream- the flowing blood in a circulatory system.
  5. Brachytherapy (internal radiation) - radiation in which the source is placed.
  6. Breast Cancer- cancer which originates from the cells of the breast.
  7. Breast Density- the distribution of fat and tissue in the breast.
  8. Breast-conserving surgery- a mastectomy where only part of the breast containing breast cancer is removed.
  9. Calcification- abnormal deposits of calcium salts within tissue.
  10. Cancer- a malignant tumor with potentially unlimited growth, which expands locally by invasion and systematically by metastasis.
  11. Cell- the basic building block of life which forms the smallest structural unit of living matter capable of functioning independently.
  12. Chemotherapy- the use of chemical agents in the treatment or control of a disease.
  13. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)- any of various nucleic acids that are usually the molecular basis of heredity, are constructed of a double helix held together by hydrogen bonds, and that in eukaryotes are localized mainly in the cell nuclei.
  14. Diagnosis- the act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms.
  15. Diagnostic mammogram- an x-ray image of the breast after an abnormality has been detected.
  16. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) - a crystalline synthetic compound used as a potent estrogen which may cause cancer or birth defects in the children of pregnant women.
  17. Duct- a bodily tube or vessel which carries the secretion of a gland.
  18. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - abnormal cells found in the lining of the breast duct. 
  19. Estrogen- a natural steroid which stimulates the development of female sex characteristics and promote the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system.
  20. External beam radiation- radiation comes from a machine outside of the body and focuses on the area which has cancer.
  21. Fibroadenoma- solid, benign breast tumors which often occur in women between the ages of 20-30 years old. 
  22. Gene mutation- mutation or change due to the reorganization of a gene.
  23. Hereditary- genetically passed from parent to biological child.
  24. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)- an administration of estrogen and synthetic progestin to treat the symptoms of menopause and reduce the risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
  25. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC)- see invasive ductal carcinoma.
  26. Infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC)- see invasive lobular carcinoma.
  27. Inflammatory breast cancer- breast cancer which mainly affects the skin of the breasts.
  28. Infraclavicular nodes- lymph nodes below the clavicle.
  29. Internal mammary nodes- lymph nodes in the chest.
  30. Intraductal carcinoma- another name for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS); a non-invasive breast cancer in which abnormal cells have not spread through the ducts into surrounding breast tissue.
  31. Intraductal papilloma- a benign breast tumor that grows in a milk duct of the breast.
  32. Invasive- tending to spread and invade healthy tissue.
  33. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)- is breast cancer which has started in the ducts of the breasts and can invade tissue surrounding the ducts.
  34. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)- is breast cancer which has started in the lobules of the breast and can invade other parts of the body.
  35. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)- abnormal cells which are found in the lobules of the breast.
  36. Lobular neoplasia- another name for lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS); abnormal cell growth appears in the lobules of the breast, not a true cancer due to the unlikelihood of it spreading to surrounding tissues.
  37. Lobule- glands in the breasts which produce milk.
  38. Lymph- fluid which contains tissue, waste products, and immune cells.
  39. Lymph nodes- small clusters of immune system cells which help fight infection. 
  40. Lymph system- part of the circulatory system which scavenges fluids and proteins that have escaped from cells and tissues and returns them to the blood.
  41. Lymphatic vessels- tubes which carry clear fluid called lymph away from the breast.
  42. Macrocalcification- a small deposit of calcium in the breast.
  43. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- an imaging technique which produces a very detailed image of your breasts by using radio waves and magnets.
  44. Male breast cancer- a rare form of cancer which occurs in the breasts of a male.
  45. Malignant- tending to metastasize, and terminate fatally; the opposite of benign
  46. Mammogram- an x-ray image of the breast.
  47. Mastectomy- a procedure in which the breast tissue, and possibly some surrounding tissue is removed.
  48. Metastasis- the spread of cancer cells from the initial site of disease to another part of the body. 
  49. Metastatic Breast Cancer- breast cancer which had invaded other parts of the body outside of the breasts.
  50. Microcalcification- a tiny deposit of calcium in the breast.
  51. Modified radical mastectomy- a simple mastectomy with the removal of underarm lymph nodes.
  52. Mutation-a permanent change in hereditary material.
  53. Needle aspiration- the process of obtaining a sample of cells and bits of tissue for examination by suctioning through a needle attached to syringe.
  54. Nipple retraction- when the nipple turns inwards.
  55. Organ- a structure consisting of cells and tissues which can perform a specific function in an organism.
  56. Paget Disease- abnormal cells found in the lining of the breast duct.
  57. Progesterone- a hormone that occurs naturally in women.
  58. Prognosis- a doctor’s opinion about how an individual will recover from an illness or injury.
  59. Protective factor- habits or behaviors that can reduce your risk of developing a disease, and improve your overall health.
  60. Radiation- energy radiated in the form of waves or particle.
  61. Radical mastectomy- removal of the entire breast, underarm lymph nodes, and chest wall muscles under the breast.
  62. Radiologist- a doctor who specializes in the use of radiant energy for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
  63. Reconstructive surgery- is a procedure done to restore the appearance of the breast after a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery.
  64. Risk factor- something which increases risk or susceptibility.
  65. Screening mammogram- an x-ray image of the breast taken before an abnormality is detected.
  66. Sentinel Lymph Node- the first lymph node which that cancer cells go to from the primary tumor.  
  67. Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB)- a procedure which may be used to determine if one or more lymph nodes contain cancer cells.  
  68. Side effect- a secondary and usually adverse effect of a drug.
  69. Simple cyst- a fluid-filled benign sac found in the breast.
  70. Simple mastectomy- a mastectomy in which the entire breast is removed, including the nipple.
  71. Skin-sparring mastectomy- a mastectomy where most of the skin over the breast, not including the nipple or areola, are left intact.
  72. Stroma- connective and fatty tissue which make up the breast and encompass the ducts, lobules, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.
  73. Supraclavicular nodes- lymph nodes located above the clavicle.
  74. Symptom- something that indicates evidence of possible disease or physical disturbance.
  75. Tissue- and collection of cells of a particular kind which forms one of the structural materials of an animal.
  76. Triple Negative Breast Cancer- is breast cancer in which cells do not have genes for the following receptors: progesterone, estrogen, and HER2/neu (human epidermal growth receptor 2).
  77. Tumor- a solid, abnormal new growth of tissue which arises from rapid cell growth.
  78. Ultrasound (sonography)- a noninvasive technique which uses sounds waves to examine internal body structures.



American Cancer Society