Glossary of Breast Cancer Terms
You gain strength, courage
and confidence by every experience in which
you must stop and look fear in the face.
You must do the thing you think you cannot
acini -- The sac-like part of the milk-producing glands in the breast.
These are also called lobules.
adenocarcinoma -- Cancer that starts in the glands, such as in the
lobules of the breast.
adenoma -- A benign growth that may or may not transform to cancer. (See
adjuvant therapy -- Treatment that is
added to increase the effectiveness of a primary therapy. It usually refers to
chemotherapy or radiation added after surgery to increase the chances of curing the
disease or keeping it in check locally.
adrenal gland -- A gland near the kidney. It produces adrenaline,
cortisone (in very small amounts), androgen (the 'male' hormone), progestin, and possibly
estrogen (the 'female' hormone; most estrogen is produced in the ovaries).
advanced cancer -- A stage of cancer in which the disease has spread
from the primary site to other parts of the body, directly or by traveling through the
network of lymph glands (lymphatics) or in the bloodstream. When the cancer has spread
only to the surrounding areas, it is called locally advanced.
alopecia hair loss -- This often occurs as a results of chemotherapy
or radiation therapy to the head.
alternative treatment -- See therapy.
androgen -- A male sex hormone,
such as testosterone. Androgens may be used to treat recurrence of
breast cancer. Their effect is to block the activity of estrogen,
which "feeds" some cancers.
anesthesia -- The loss of feeling
or sensation as a result of drugs or gases. General anesthesia causes
loss of consciousness ("puts you to sleep").
Local anesthesia numbs only a specified area.
aneuploid -- See
antibiotic -- The word means "destructive of life." Antibiotics
are chemical substances, produced by living organisms or synthesized
(created) in laboratories, for the purpose of killing other organisms
that cause disease. Some cancer therapies interfere with the body's
ability to fight off infection (they suppress the immune system),
so antibiotics may be needed along with the cancer treatment to protect
against or kill infectious diseases.
antibody -- A protein in the blood that
defends against invading foreign agents, such as a virus. The invading agent is called an
antigen. Each antibody works against a specific antigen. (See also antigen.)
antiemetic -- A drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting,
which are common side effects from many chemotherapies. Antiemetic drugs are now used
before, during or after chemotherapy. Granisetron and ondansetron are examples of
antiestrogen -- Any substance (for example,
the drug tamoxifen) that blocks the effects of estrogen on tumors. Antiestrogens are used
to treat breast cancers that depend on estrogen for growth.
antigen -- An
invading foreign agent, such as a virus that causes antibodies to form.
(See also antibodies.)
antimetabolites -- Antimetabolites are substances that interfere with
the body's metabolic processes, such as burning calories or division of cells to form new
cells. In treating cancer, antimetabolite drugs disrupt DNA production, which in turn
prevents cell division and growth of tumors. (See also DNA.)
areola -- The dark area of flesh that encircles the nipple of the
breast. aspirate -- Removal of fluid or cells from a breast lump. (See also
asymptomatic -- To be without noticeable signs or symptoms of disease.
Many cancers can develop and grow without producing symptoms, especially in the early
stages. Detection tests, such as mammography, try to discover developing cancers at the
asymptomatic stage, when the chances for cure are usually highest. (See also
atypical -- Not usual; abnormal. Cancer is the result of atypical cell
axillary dissection -- A surgical
procedure in which the lymph nodes in the armpit (axillary nodes) are removed and
examined, to find out if breast cancer has spread to those nodes.
benign -- Not cancer; not malignant. The main types of benign breast
problems are fibroadenomas, fibrocystic changes and cysts.
bilateral -- Affecting both sides of the body;
for example, bilateral breast cancer is cancer occurring in both breasts at the same time
(synchronous) or at different times (metachronous).
biologic response modifiers -- A class of compounds that are produced
in the body. Among the roles they play, biologic response modifiers boost the body's
immune system to fight against cancer. (See also interferon.)
biopsy -- A procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the
body for examination of their appearance under a microscope to find out if cancer or other
abnormal cells are present. The biopsy can be done with a needle or by surgery.
bone marrow transplant -- A complex treatment that may be used when
breast cancer is advanced or has recurred. The bone marrow transplant, which was first
proved successful in treating leukemia, makes it possible to use exceedingly high doses of
chemotherapy that would otherwise be impossible. Autologous bone marrow transplant means
that the patient's own bone marrow is used. When this is not possible, it becomes
necessary to find a donor whose biologic characteristics (such as blood type) match or
very closely match the patient's. A portion of the patient's or donor's bone marrow is
withdrawn, cleansed, treated and stored. The patient is then given high doses of
chemotherapy that kill the cancer cells but also destroy the remaining bone marrow, thus
robbing the body of its natural ability to fight infection. The cleansed and stored marrow
is given by transfusion (transplanted) to rescue the patient's immune defenses. Although
this method has been widely reported by the media, and it has given good results in many
people, it is not yet scientifically proven to be effective in breast cancer. It is a
risky procedure that involves a lengthy and expensive hospital stay that may not be
covered by the patient's health insurance. The best place to have a bone marrow transplant
is in a clinical trial at a comprehensive cancer center or other facility that has the
technical skill and experience to perform it safely.
bone scan -- An imaging method that gives
important information about the growth and health of bones, including the location of
cancer that may have spread to the bones. It can be done as an outpatient procedure and is
painless, except for the needle stick when a low-dose radioactive dye is injected into a
vein. Images are taken to see where the dye accumulates, indicating an abnormality.
bone (skeletal) survey -- X-rays of the entire skeleton.
brain scan -- An imaging method used to find
abnormalities in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain
from other places in the body. This procedure can be done in an outpatient clinic. It is
painless, except for the needle stick when a radioactive dye is injected into a vein. The
images taken will show the path of the dye and places where it accumulates, indicating an
BRCA1 -- A gene located on the short arm of chromosome 17. When this
gene is damaged (mutated), it places a woman at greater risk of developing breast and / or
ovarian cancer, compared with women who do not have the mutation. In a woman with a BRCA1
mutation, the risk of developing breast cancer by age 50% is 58%, compared with 2% in the
general population. A person who has this mutated gene has a 50% chance of passing on the
gene to each of her children. A genetic test is available at a few universities in the
United States, but only for women who are known to be at risk because several women in
their family have had breast cancer at an early age (before menopause; women in this group
also tend to have bilateral breast cancer) or ovarian cancer. Scientists are working on a
blood test that can be used to detect BRCA1 mutations in the general population, but this
test is still several years away.
breast augmentation surgery to increase the size of the breast -- (See
also breast implant
breast cancer -- Cancer that starts in the breast. How rapidly it
grows, whether it will spread (metastasize) or not, and what the outcome will be varies,
depending on many factors, including the type of cancer, where it begins, how soon it was
detected, whether it is estrogen-receptor positive or negative, and whether it responds to
the type of treatment chosen. Some of the factors that contribute to the course of breast
cancer are still unknown, but one area that is under study is the effect of diet. The main
types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, infiltrating ductal carcinoma,
invasive lobular carcinoma, lobular carcinoma in situ, medullary carcinoma, and Paget's
disease of the nipple (see definitions under these headings). (See also estrogen
breast conservation therapy -- Surgery to remove a breast cancer and a
small amount of tissue around the cancer, without removing any other part of the breast.
This procedure is also called lumpectomy, segmental excision, limited breast surgery, or
tylectomy. The method may require an axillary dissection and / or radiation therapy in
addition to the breast conservation surgery. (See also lumpectomy.)
breast implant -- A manufactured sac that
is filled with silicone gel (a synthetic material containing silicon) or saline (sterile
saltwater). The sac is surgically inserted to increase breast size or restore the
appearance of a breast after mastectomy. Because of concern about possible (but as yet
unproven) side effects of silicone, silicone implants are presently available only to
women who agree to participate in a clinical trial in which side effects are carefully
breast reconstruction -- Surgery that rebuilds the breast contour
after mastectomy. A breast implant or the woman's own tissue provides the contour. If
desired, the nipple and areola may also be re-created. Reconstruction can be done at the
time of mastectomy or any time later. (See also mammaplasty.)
breast self-exam (BSE) -- A technique of checking one's own breasts
for lumps or suspicious changes. The method is recommended for all women over age 20, to
be done once a month, usually at a time other than the days before, during, or immediately
after her menstrual period.
How to do a self-breast exam -- Click here for graphic. Click here for video.
breast specialist -- A term describing health professionals who have a
dedicated interest in breast health. While they may acquire specialized knowledge in this
area, medical schools and licensing boards do not teach or certify a specialty in breast
calcifications -- Tiny calcium deposits
within the breast, singly or in clusters, often found by mammography. These are also
called microcalcifications. They are a sign of change within the breast that may be
monitored by additional, periodic mammography, or by immediate or delayed biopsy.
cancer -- A general term for more than 100
diseases in which abnormal or malignant cells develop. Some exist quietly within the body
for years without causing a problem (this happens frequently with prostate cancer). Others
are aggressive, rapidly forming tumors that may invade and destroy surrounding tissue. If
cancer spreads, it usually travels through the lymph system or bloodstream to distant
areas of the body.
cancer care team -- The group of health professionals who cooperate in
the diagnosis, planning, treatment, after-care, and counselling of people with cancer. The
team may include any or all of the following and others: primary care physician and / or
gynecologist, nurse, pathologist, oncology specialists (medical oncologist, radiation
oncologist, hematologist), surgeon, oncology nurse specialist, oncology social worker.
Whether the team is linked formally or informally, there is usually one person who takes
the job of "referee" (See also case manager).
cancer cell -- A cell that divides and reproduces abnormally and can
spread throughout the body. (See metastasis.)
cancer-related checkup -- A routine health examination for cancer in
persons without obvious signs or symptoms of cancer. The goal of the cancer-related
check-up is to find the disease, if it exists, at an early stage, when chances for cure
are greatest. Clinical breast examination, Pap smears and skin examinations are examples
of methods used in cancer-related check-ups. (See also detection.)
capsule formation -- Scar tissue that
may form around a breast (or other type of) implant as the body tries to "wall
off" or encapsulate the foreign object. Sometimes called a contracture.
carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
-- CEA is an antigen produced by some types of tumors, including some breast cancers and
colon cancers. A blood test can determine whether CEA is present, indicating that tumors
are present and active. In some, but not all, cases of breast cancer that has spread
(metastasized), the CEA test helps determine whether the treatment method is working. The
CEA test is not useful for routine cancer-related check-ups.
carcinogen -- Any substance that causes cancer or helps cancer grow.
For example, asbestos is a carcinogen. It has been proven to dramatically increase the
risk of lung cancer in people who smoke.
carcinoma -- A malignant tumor that begins in the lining (epithelial)
cells of organs. Carcinomas can occur in almost any part of the body. At least 80% of all
cancers are carcinomas, and almost all breast cancers are carcinomas.
carcinoma in situ -- An early stage of cancer, in which the tumor is
still only in the structures of the organ where it first developed, and the disease has
not invaded other parts of the organ or spread (metastasized). Most in situ carcinomas are
case manager -- The member of a cancer care
team -- usually a nurse or oncology nurse specialist -- who "referees" by
coordinating all of the patient's care and needs throughout diagnosis, treatment and
recovery. The case manager is a new concept that provides a guide through the complex
system of health care by helping cut through red tape, getting responses to questions,
managing crises and connecting the patient and family to needed resources.
CAT scan -- See computerized
CEA -- See carcinoembryonic
cell -- The basic unit of which all living things
are made. Cells carry out basic life processes. Organs are clusters of cells that have
developed specialized tasks. In scientific language, cytecell, and therefore cytology is
the study of cells, cytotoxic means "toxic to cells," an erythrocyte is a red
blood cell, and so on. Cells replace themselves by splitting and forming new cells
(mitosis), and it is this process that is disrupted in cancer. chemoprevention. Prevention
or reversal of disease using drugs, chemicals, vitamins or minerals. While this idea is
not ready for widespread use, it is a very promising area of study. The Breast Cancer
Prevention Trial is one such study, in which the drug tamoxifen is being tried to see if
it will prevent breast cancer.
chemotherapy -- Treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is often used in addition to surgery or radiation or to treat cancer that has
come back (recurred). (See also adjuvant
clinical trials -- Research studies to test new drugs or procedures or
to compare current, standard treatments (medications, procedures) with others that may be
equal or better.
computerized axial tomography
-- A scan procedure in which multiple X-rays are taken of all or part of the body to
produce an image of internal organs. The X-ray images are converted to cross-sectional
images on a computer screen, where abnormalities are highlighted. Except for injection of
a dye (needed in some but not all cases), this is a painless procedure that can be
performed in an outpatient clinic. It is usually referred to as a "CAT" scan.
contracture -- A capsule or shell of tight, scar-like fibers that may form around a breast
implant. (See also capsule
cyst -- A fluid-filled mass that is usually harmless (begnign). The
fluid can be removed fro analysis (See needle
cytology -- The study or examination of cells: their origin,
structure, function and pathology to determine whether they are cancerous or benign. (See
detection -- Finding disease. Early detection
means that the disease is found at an early stage, before it has grown large or spread to
other sites. (Note: Many forms of cancer can develop to an advanced stage without
presenting symptoms. Ovarian and pancreatic cancers are very difficult to detect.)
Mammography is the principal way to detect breast cancer early. A mammogram can show a
developing breast tumor before it can be felt by the woman herself or even by a highly
skilled health professional. Women participate in early detection by performing monthly
breast self-examination, getting medical attention immediately for any suspicious lumps or
discomfort in the breast, and having mammograms on the schedule recommended in the
American Cancer Society guidelines.
diagnosis -- Identifying a disease by its signs, symptoms, and
laboratory findings. The earlier a diagnosis of cancer is made, the better the chance for
diaphanography -- Also called
transillumination, this is a method of examining the breast. It is used primarily in
younger women (40 years of age or less), for whom mammography is not appropriate. The
technique uses bright light to illuminate inner structures, in much the same way that
children observe the blood and bones in their hands with a flashlight. It has limitations
and by itself is not an adequate method of examination for suspicious lumps or thickenings
in the breast.
dimpling -- A pucker or indentation of the
skin; on the breast, it may be a sign of cancer.
dissection -- Surgery to divide, separate, or remove tissues. (See
DNA -- Abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid. One
of two acids (the other is RNA) found in the nucleus of all cells. DNA holds genetic
information on cell growth, division, and function.
doubling time -- The time it takes for a cell to divide and double
itself. The doubling time of breast cancer cells depends on many things, such as the type
of tumor, the resistance of the individual's body, and the location in which it tries to
grow. A single cell needs 30 doublings to reach noticeable size (1 cm) -- a billion cells.
Cancers vary in doubling time from 8 to 600 days, averaging 100 to 120 days. Thus, a
cancer may be present for many years before it can be felt. (See also cell.)
duct -- A pathway. In the breast, a passage through which milk passes
from the lobule (which makes the milk) to the nipple.
duct ectasia -- Widening of the ducts of the breast, often related to
a breast inflammation called periductal mastitis. Duct ectasia is a benign (not cancerous)
condition. Symptoms of this condition are a nipple discharge, swelling, dimpling
(retraction) of the nipple, or a lump that can be felt.
ductal carcinoma in situ -- Cancer cells that started in the milk
passages (ducts) and have not penetrated the duct walls into the surrounding tissue. This
is a highly curable form of breast cancer that is treated with surgery or surgery plus
radiation therapy. edema -- Build-up of fluid in the tissues, resulting in swelling. Edema
of the arm can occur after radical mastectomy, axillary dissection of lymph nodes, or
radiation therapy, due to treatment or removal of the lymph channels.
ductal papillomas -- Small, finger-like, non-cancerous growths in the
breast ducts that cause a bloody nipple discharge. These are most often found in women 45
to 50 years of age. When many papillomas exist, breast cancer risk is slightly increased.
dysplasia -- An abnormality in size, appearance, and organization of
adult cells, but this condition is not cancer. A biopsy is needed for diagnosis.
endocrine glands -- Glands that release hormones into the bloodstream.
The ovaries are one type of endocrine gland.
endocrine therapy -- Manipulation of hormones for therapeutic
purposes. (See also hormone
epidemiology -- The study of factors that have an impact on health and
how they relate to one another by collecting and analyzing statistical data. In the field
of cancer, epidemiologists are studying how many people can cancer; who gets specific
types of cancer; and what factors (such as environment, job hazards, individual
characteristics, family patterns, and personal habits, including smoking, diet, and
lifestyle) play a part in the development of cancer.
estrogen -- A female sex hormone produced
primarily in the ovaries, possibly in the adrenal cortex, and produced in men in the
testis (in much smaller amounts than in women). In women, levels of estrogen fluctuate on
nature's carefully orchestrated schedule, regulating the development of secondary sex
characteristics, including breasts; regulating the monthly cycle of menstruation; and
preparing the body for fertilization and reproduction. In breast cancer, estrogen may feed
the growth of cancer cells. (See estrogen
estrogen receptor assay -- A test to
see if a breast tumor's cells are nourished by estrogen (estrogen receptor positive) or
not (estrogen-receptor negative). (See also progesterone
estrogen replacement therapy
-- The use of estrogen (exogenous estrogen, i.e., estrogen not produced by the body;
estrogen from other sources) to replace estrogen that the body would normally produce, but
has ceased to produce because of natural or induced menopause. This type of hormone
therapy is often prescribed to alleviate discomforts of menopause and has been shown to
provide protective effects against heart disease and osteoporosis in women. Since estrogen
nourishes some types of breast cancer, scientists are working on the question of whether
estrogen replacement therapy increases breast cancer risk.
(See also estrogen, menopause, osteoporosis.)
etiology -- Study of the cause of disease. In cancer, there are
probably many etiologies, although research is showing that genetics are a major factor in
extended radical mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
fascia -- A sheet or thin band of fibrous tissue that covers muscles
and various organs of the body.
fat necrosis -- The death of fat cells, usually following injury. Fat
necrosis is a benign condition, but it can cause a lump, pulling of the skin, or skin
changes that can be confused with breast cancer.
fibroadenoma -- An adenoma in the breast,
composed of fibrous tissue. On clinical examination or breast self-examination, it feels
like a firm lump. These usually occur in young women and are benign.
fibrocystic changes -- A term that describes certain benign changes in
the breast; also called fibrocystic disease or benign breast disease. Symptoms of this
condition are breast swelling or pain. Signs that a physician can observe on clinical
breast examination are the presence of nodularity (nodules), lumpiness, and sometimes,
nipple discharge. Although these symptoms mimic breast cancer, microscopic examination of
breast tissue will show that there is no cancer.
fibrosis -- Formation of fibrous (tough or scar) tissue. This can
occur anywhere in the body.
fine needle aspiration -- See needle
five-year survival -- To survive cancer for five years after treatment
of the disease. This is a "milestone" for most cancer patients, indicating that
treatment was successful.
flow cytometry -- A test on tumor tissue to see how aggressive the
frozen section -- Microscopic examination
of a specimen of tissue that has been quick-frozen. This method gives a quick diagnosis,
sometimes while the surgeon is waiting to complete a procedure. The diagnosis is confirmed
in a few days by a more detailed study called a permanent section. (See also
galactocele -- Clogged milk duct; a cyst filled with milk. It may
occur in the breast during breastfeeding.
genes -- A segment or unit of DNA that contains
information on hereditary characteristics such as hair color, eye color, and height. Women
who have the BRCA1 gene have an inherited (genetic) tendency to develop breast cancer.
genetic -- Related to the genes. (See also genes.)
glands -- Organs that produce and release chemicals used locally or
elsewhere in the body. This term is often used incorrectly to mean lymph nodes.
Graphic stress telethermometry (GST) -- A method of measuring surface
heat from a distance. Some have used this method, plus computer analysis of heat patterns
in the breast, to measure breast cancer risk. This is not a reliable method and is not in
Halsted radical mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
hematologist -- A physician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment
of conditions that arise in the blood and blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow.
hematoma -- A collection of blood outside a blood vessel caused by a
leak or injury; for example, the bruise that may appear after blood is drawn for lab work.
Hematomas that occur in the breast after injury may feel like a lump. As with other breast
lumps, it's important to have this checked to be sure that it is indeed a hematoma and not
a more serious problem.
hereditary cancer syndrome -- One or several types of conditions
associated with cancers that occur within multiple family members, because of an
inherited, mutated gene.
high risk -- Having a higher risk of developing cancer, compared with
the general population. Some of the factors that can place a person at higher risk are
heredity (a family history of breast cancer increases risk of breast cancer), lifestyle
choices (smoking increases risk of lung cancer), and the environment (exposure to sunlight
increases risk of skin cancer). (See also risk factor.)
hormone -- A chemical substance that is released into the body by the
endocrine glands, such as the thyroid or ovaries. The substance travels through the
bloodstream and sets in motion various body functions. For example, prolactin, which is
produced in the pituitary gland, begins and sustains the production of milk in the breast
hormone receptor assay -- A test to see whether a breast tumor is
affected by hormones or if it can be treated with hormones. (See also estrogen
receptor assay, progesterone
hormone replacement therapy -- See
hyperplasia -- An abnormal increase in the number of cells in a
specific area, such as the lining of the breast ducts. This overgrowth may be due to
hormonal stimulation, injury or continuous irritation. By itself, hyperplasia is not
cancerous, but when the proliferating cells are atypical (unlike normal cells), the risk
of cancer developing is greater.
hysterectomy -- An operation to remove the uterus, via the abdomen or
the vagina. Total hysterectomy means that the ovaries were also removed. (See also
imaging -- Any method used to produce an image
of internal body structures. Some imaging methods used to detect cancer or metastasis of
cancer are x-rays (a breast x-ray is called a mammogram), magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI), bone scans, scintigraphy, computerized axial tomography (CAT scans), and
ultrasonography. (See also bone scan, computerized
axial tomography, magnetic
resonance imaging, ultrasonography.)
immune system -- The complex system by which the body resists invasion
by a foreign substance such as bacterial infection or a transplanted organ. See
immunocytochemistry -- A method of detecting cancer in tissues.
Monoclonal antibodies are used to stain the tissues and cells before examination under a
microscope. (See also monoclonal
immunology -- Study of how the body resists disease or invasion by
foreign substances. Knowledge gained in this field is important to understanding how and
why cancers develop. Many cancer treatments are based on the principles of immunology. (See
immunosuppression -- A naturally occurring or induced state in which
the ability of the body's immune system to respond is decreased. Certain cancer therapies,
including cytotoxic (cancer-cell killing) drugs, radiation, and bone marrow transplant
immunotherapy -- Treatments that provoke
or support the body's immune system response to a disease, such as cancer. This approach
to treatment is still largely experimental.
infiltrating ductal carcinoma -- A cancer that starts in the milk
passages (ducts) of the breast and then breaks through the duct wall, where it invades the
fatty tissue of the breast. When it reaches this point, it has the potential to spread
(metastasize) elsewhere in the breast, as well as to other parts of the body through the
bloodstream and lymphatic system. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common type of
breast cancer, accounting for about 80% of breast malignancies.
infraclavicular nodes -- Lymph nodes located beneath the clavicle
(collar bone); a part of the network of axillary (armpit) nodes.
interferon -- A protein produced by cells.
interferon helps regulate the body's defense system (immune response), boosting activity
when a threat, such as a virus, is detected. Scientists have learned that interferon helps
fight against cancer, so it is used with some chemotherapies and in bone marrow
transplants. Interferon can be made artificiallv in large amounts.
internal mammary nodes -- Lymph nodes beneath the breast bone on each
side. The Iymph glands of the breast drain into the internal mammary nodes.
intraductal papilloma -- A benign tumor that starts in the ductal
system of the breast. It can cause discharge from the nipple. A woman with papillomatosis
(multiple intraductal papillomas) is at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
intravenous (IV) -- A method of supplying fluids and medications,
using a needle inserted in a vein.
invasive cancer -- Cancer that has invaded surrounding tissue and
spread to distant parts of the body.
invasive lobular carcinoma -- A cancer that arises in the
milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast and then breaks through the lobule walls.
From this site, it may then spread elsewhere in the breast. About 15% of mvas1ve breast
cancers 1S invasive lobular carcinoma. It is often difficult to detect by physical
examination or even by mammography. Up to 25% of women with this type of cancer will at
some point develop an additional cancer in the opposite breast.
lactation -- Production of milk in the breast.
lattisimus dorsi flap procedure -- A method of breast reconstruction
that uses the long flat muscle of the back, by rotating it to the chest area.
leukemia -- Cancer of the organs that form the blood, such as lymph
nodes and bone marrow. People with leukemia often have a noticeable increase in leukocytes
(white blood cells). Leukemia can develop as a consequence of some types of breast cancer
limited breast surgery -- Also called lumpectomy, segmental excision,
and tylectomy. It removes the breast cancer and a small amount of tissue around the
cancer, but preserves most of the breast. It is almost always combined with axillary lymph
node removal and is followed by radiation therapy. (See also lumpectomy.)
linear accelerator -- A machine used in radiation therapy to treat
cancer. It generates gamma rays and electron beams.
lobes -- In the breast, groups of glands that produce milk.
lobular carcinoma in situ -- A very early type of breast cancer that
develops within the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast and does not penetrate
through the wall of the lobules. Researchers think that lobular carcinoma in situ does not
eventually become an invasive lobular cancer; rather, having this type of cancer places a
woman at increased risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later in life. For this
reason, it's important for women with lobular carcinoma in situ to have a physical
examination three or four times a year and an annual mammogram.
lobular carcinoma (of the breast -- infiltrating or invasive) -- A
type of breast cancer that starts within the lobules. It may be multicentric (occurring in
multiple lobules). Compared with other types of breast cancer, this type has a higher
chance of occurring in the opposite breast, as well. It can often be difficult to
diagnose, even with careful physical examination or mammography.
local excision -- Removal of a lesion or tumor that is confined to one
localized breast cancer -- A cancer that arose in the breast and is
confined to the breast.
lump -- Any kind of mass that can be felt in the breast or elsewhere
in the body.
lumpectomy -- Surgery to remove the tumor and
a small amount of surrounding normal tissue. (See also mastectomy, two-step
lymph -- Clear fluid that passes within the
lymphatic system and contains cells known as lymphocytes. These cells fight infections.
They have a lesser role in fighting cancer.
lymph nodes -- Small masses of bean-shaped tissue, located along the
lymphatic vessels, that remove waste and fluids from lymph and act as filters of
impurities in the body. (See also lymph.)
lymphatic system -- The tissues and organs (including bone marrow,
spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes) that produce and store lymphocytes (cells that fight
infection) and the channels that carry the lymph fluid. The entire lymphatic system is an
important part of the body's immune system. lymphedema -- Swelling in the arm caused by
excess fluid that collects after lymph nodes and vessels are removed by surgery or treated
by radiation. This condition is usually painful and can be persistent.
lymphoma -- Tumor made up of lymph node tissue, from an abnormal
production of immature lymphocytes (a form of white blood cells). About 5% of all cancers
are lymphomas. One form is Hodgkin's disease. Lymphoma can occur as a result of some types
of cancer therapies.
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
-- A method of obtaining cross-sectional images of the interior structures of the body.
Whereas x-rays are obtained by beaming radiation through the body and onto a film, MRI
uses a powerful magnet and transmits radio waves through the body, and the images appear
on a computer screen as well as on film. Like x-rays, the procedure is physically
painless, but some people find it psychologically uncomfortable to be in the small core of
the MRI machine. Sedatives may be prescribed if this is a problem.
malignant tumor -- A mass of cancer cells that may invade surrounding
tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. See cancer.
mammaplasty, mammoplasty -- Plastic surgery
to reconstruct the breast or to change the shape, size, or position of the breast.
Reduction mammaplasty reduces the size of the breast. Augmentation mammaplasty enlarges a
woman's breast, usually with implants.
mammogram, mammography -- An x-ray of the
breast; the principal method of detection of breast cancer in women over 40. Mammography
is performed on a special type of x-ray machine that is used only for this purpose. It has
two plates. The lower plate is metal and has a drawer for the film cassette. The bare
breast is placed on this plate. The upper plate, which is clear plastic, is lowered onto
the breast. Thus compressed, it is possible to obtain a clear image of the interior
structures of the breast (mammogram). The compression is maintained for only a few seconds
-- long enough for the technician to go to the control panel and snap the image. The
procedure is then repeated with the other breast. A mammogram can show a developing breast
tumor before it is large enough to be felt by a woman or even by a highly skilled health
mastectomy -- Surgery to remove all or part
of the breast. Extended radical mastectomy removes the breast, skin, pectoral muscles
(both major and minor), and all axillary and internal mammary lymph nodes on the same
side. Halsted radical mastectomy removes the breast, skin, both pectoral muscles, and all
axillary lymph nodes on the same side. Modified radical mastectomy removes the breast,
skin, nipple, areola, and most of the axillary lymph nodes on the same side, leaving the
chest muscles intact. Partial mastectomy removes less than the whole breast, taking only
part of the breast in which the cancer occurs and a margin of healthy breast tissue
surrounding the tumor. (See also lumpectomy.) Prophylactic mastectomy is removal of the
interior of one or both breasts, before any evidence of cancer can be found, for the
purpose of preventing cancer. This procedure is sometimes recommended for women at very
high risk of breast cancer, but its efficacy is not proven. Quadrantectomy is a partial
mastectomy in which the quarter of the breast that contains tumor is removed. Segmental
mastectomy is a partial mastectomy. Simple mastectomy is a term once used to describe what
is now called total mastectomy. Total mastectomy removes only the breast.
mastitis -- Inflammation or infection of the breast.
mastopexy -- Surgery to lift a breast that sags.
medical oncologist -- See oncologist.
medullary carcinoma -- A special type of infiltrating breast cancer in
which the tumor appears well-defined, with obvious boundaries between tumor tissue and
normal tissue. About 5% of breast cancers are medullary carcinomas. The outlook
(prognosis) for this kind of cancer is considered to be better than averave.
menarche -- The first menstrual period. Early menarche (before age 12)
is a risk factor for breast cancer, possibly because the earlier a woman's periods begin,
the longer the exposure to estrogen.
menopause -- The time in a woman's life when
monthly cycles of menstruation cease forever and the level of hormones produced by the
ovaries decreases. Menopause usually occurs in the late 40s or early 50s, but it can also
be induced by surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) or the ovaries and uterus
(total hysterectomy), or by some chemotherapies that destroy ovarian function. Among such
chemotherapies are some that are used for breast cancer. (See also estrogen
metachronous -- At different times. (See also bilateral.)
metastasis -- The spread of cancer cells to
distant areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.
microcalcifications -- See calcifications.
micrometastases -- The spread of cancer cells in groups so small that
they can only be seen under a microscope.
modified radical mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
monoclonal antibodies --
Antibodies manufactured in the laboratory and designed to seek out specific foreign agents
(antigens) on cancer cells as targets. Monoclonal antibodies are being studied for their
potential to "deliver" chemotherapy and radiotherapy directly to a cancer, thus
killing the cancer cell and not harming healthy tissue. Other studies are being done to
see if monoclonal antibodies can be produced to detect or locate small groups of cancer
cells. (See also antibody, antigen.)
multicentric breast cancer -- Breast cancer occurring in multiple
areas of a breast.
needle aspiration -- Removal of fluid
from a cyst, or cells from a tumor. In this procedure, a needle and syringe (like those
used to give injections) is used to pierce the skin, reach the cyst or tumor, and with
suction, draw up (aspirate) specimens for biopsy analysis. If the needle is thin, the
procedure is called fine needle aspiration or "FNA." If a needle with a large
bore (or core) is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy.
needle biopsy -- See needle
needle localization -- A procedure used to do a breast needle biopsy
when the lump is difficult to locate or in areas that look suspicious on the x-ray but do
not have a distinct lump. After an injection of local anesthesia to numb the area, a thin
needle is inserted into the breast. X-rays are taken and used to guide the wire to the
area to be biopsied. A tiny hook on the end of the wire holds it in place. Then a
hypodermic needle (like the type used to give injections) is injected, using the path of
the wire as a guide, and the biopsy is completed. (See also needle
neoplasm -- Any abnormal growth; neoplasms may be benign or malignant.
Cancer is a malignant neoplasm.
nipple -- The tip of the breast; the pigmented projection in the
middle of the areola. The nipple contains the opening of milk ducts from the breast.
nipple discharge -- Any fluid coming from the nipple. It may be clear,
milky, bloody, tan, gray, or green.
nodal status -- A count of the number of lymph nodes in the armpit
(axillary nodes) to which cancer has spread (node-positive) or has not spread
(node-negative). The number and site of positive axillary nodes help forecast the risk of
node -- Lymph glands. (See also axillary
nodule -- A small, solid lump that can be located by touch.
Nolvadex -- Trade name for tamoxifen, an antiestrogen drug commonly
used in breast cancer therapy. (See also antiestrogen,
noncancerous -- Benign; not malignant; no cancer is present.
normal hormonal changes -- Changes in breast and other tissues that
are caused by fluctations in levels of female hormones during the menstrual cycle.
nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) -- A method of taking images of the
interior structures of the body. (See also magnetic
nuclear medicine scan -- A method for viewing internal organs such as
the brain, liver, or bone, in which small amounts of a radioactive substance (isotope) are
injected into the bloodstream. The isotope is concentrated in organs that absorb it, where
it can be traced and used to produce an image of the organ. Except for the injection, this
method of imaging is painless.
nucleus -- The powerhouse at the center of a cell where the cell's
important activities are carried out. DNA is housed and replicated in the nucleus.
nulliparous -- A woman who has never given birth to a child.
nurse practitioner -- A nurse who has
completed the RN (registered nurse) degree and then takes highly specialized training.
Nurse practitioners can work with or without the supervision of a physician. They take on
additional duties in diagnosis and treatment of patients and in many states they may write
prescriptions. (See also oncology
oncogene -- A type of gene found in the chromosomes of tumor cells.
When these genes are "turned on" (activated), they initiate and continue
conversion of normal cells to cancer cells.
oncologist -- A doctor who is specially
trained in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Medical oncologists specialize in the
use of drugs and chemotherapy to treat cancer. Radiation oncologists specialize in the use
of x-rays (radiation) to kill tumors. Medical and radiation oncologists often cooperate in
giving complicated treatments.
oncology nurse specialist -- A
nurse who has taken highly specialized training in the field of cancer, after completing
the RN (registered nurse) degree. Oncology nurse specialists may mix and administer
treatments, monitor patients, prescribe and provide aftercare, and teach and counsel
patients and their families. Many oncology nurse specialists are also certified nurse
practitioners. (See also case manager,
oncology social worker -- A person with a master's degree in social
work who has specialized in the field of cancer. The oncology social worker provides
counselling and assistance to people with cancer and their families, especially in dealing
with the crises that can result from cancer but are not medical, such as financial
problems, housing when treatments must be taken at a facility far away from home, and
one-step procedure -- Surgery in which a breast treatment (such as
mastectomy, if the diagnosis is indeed breast cancer) is performed in a single operation.
The patient is given general anesthesia and does not know until awakened if the diagnosis
was cancer or surgery was performed. Once the only option in breast cancer, the one-step
procedure is now rarely used. (See also two-step
oophorectomy (ovariectomy) -- Surgery to
remove the ovaries.
osteoporosis -- Break-down or
disintegration of bone, resulting in diminished and porous bone mass. Osteoporosis can
result from cancer (including breast cancer) that has spread to the bones), some cancer
therapies, and estrogen deficiency (estrogen is an important participant in maintaining
bone). Osteoporosis can cause pain, deformity (especially of the spine), pathologic
fractures (fractures caused by weakened bone), or traumatic fractures (for example, wrist
or hip fracture from a fall). (See also estrogen
ovary -- Reproductive organ in the female pelvic region. Normally a
woman has two ovaries. They contain the eggs (ova) that, joined with sperm, result in
pregnancy. Ovaries are also the primary site of production of estrogen (See also
Paget's disease of the nipple -- A form of breast cancer that begins
in the milk passages (ducts) and involves the skin of the nipple and areola. A sign of
Paget's disease is a crusting, scaly, red, inflamed tissue (dermatitis) lesion on the
nipple. With true Paget's disease, cancer is usually also present within the breast. This
is a rare type of breast cancer that occurs in only 1% of cases. If no lump can be felt,
it generally has a good outcome (prognosis).
palliative treatment -- Therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain,
but does not cure the disease. Its main purpose is to improve the quality of life.
palpation -- Using the hands to examine. A palpable mass in the breast
is one that can be felt.
partial mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
pathologist -- A physician who specializes in
the identification of abnormalities and disease by examining body tissue under a
microscope and organs. The pathologist determines whether a lump is benign or cancerous.
pathology -- The study of disease. Examination
of body tissues and organs under a microscope for evidence of disease. Any tumor thought
to be cancer must be diagnosed by examination under a microscope.
pectoral muscles -- Muscles attached to the front of the chest wall
and upper arms. The larger group is called pectoralis major, and a smaller group is called
pectoralis minor. Because these muscles are in close proximity to the breast, they may
become involved in breast cancer or surgery to treat it.
permanent section -- Preparation of
tissue for microscopic examination. The tissue is soaked for up to 12 hours in
formaldehyde, processed in various chemicals overnight, then sliced very thin and stained.
It provides clear definition of the specimen so that the presence or absence of cancer can
be determined. (See also frozen section.)
pigment -- A class of substances that provide color, including in the
human body. The areola and nipple of the breast are pigmented with melanin. Normally a
brownish tint, melanin in these areas of the breast can range from pale pink to deep
placebo -- An inert, inactive substance, sometimes called a"sugar
pill." A placebo may be used in clinical trials to compare the effects of a given
treatment against no treatment.
ploidy -- A measure of the amount of DNA
contained in a cell. Ploidy is a characteristic (marker) that helps determine how
cancerous a tumor's cells are, compared with healthy cells. Most cancer cells are
aneuploid (an'-u-ploid), which means there is an abnormal amount of DNA in them.
precancerous -- See premalignant.
predisposition -- Susceptibility to a disease that can be triggered
under certain conditions. For example, some women have a family history of breast cancer
and are therefore predisposed (but not necessarily destined) to develop breast cancer.
premalignant -- Abnormal changes in cells
that may, but not always, become cancer. Most of these early lesions respond well to
treatment and result in cure. Also called precancerous.
prevalence -- A measure of the proportion of persons in the population
with a particular disease at a specified time.
prevention -- Avoiding the occurrence of an event, such as development
of cancer, by avoiding things known to cause cancer and participating in activities that
can or might prevent cancer. For example, avoiding smoking can prevent lung cancer, and
taking tamoxifen may prevent breast cancer in women who are at high risk for the disease.
primary cancer -- The site where cancer begins. Primary cancer is
usually named after the organ in which it starts (for example, breast cancer).
progesterone -- A female sex hormone released by the ovaries to
prepare the uterus for pregnancy and the breasts for milk production (lactation).
progesterone receptor assay -- A
test that shows whether a breast cancer depends on progesterone for growth. Progesterone
receptors are tested along with estrogen receptors for more complete information on the
hormone sensitivity of a cancer, and how best to treat it. (See also estrogen
prognosis -- A prediction of the course of disease; the prospects for
the cure of the patient. For example, women with breast cancer that was detected early and
received prompt treatment have a good prognosis.
prolactin -- A hormone released from the pituitary gland that prompts
milk production (lactation.)
prophylactic mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
prosthesis -- An artificial form, such as a breast
pros-quadrantectomy. See mastectomy.
protocol -- A formalized outline or plan.
quadrantectomy -- See mastectomy.
radiation oncologist -- See oncologist.
radical (Halsted or standard) mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
radioactive implant -- A source of high-dose radiation that is
temporarily placed right into and around a cancer to kill the cancer cells.
radioisotope -- An isotope (portion of an atom) that is radioactive.
In certain imaging procedures, radioisotopes are injected. They travel through the body in
areas where the disease is active, showing up as highlighted areas on the images. In
breast cancer, radioisotopes are used to check for metastasis to the bones or the liver.
radiologic technologist -- A health professional (not a physician)
trained to properly position patients for x-rays, to load film and take the images, and to
develop and check the images for quality. Since mammograms (breast x-rays) are done on a
machine that is used only for mammograms, the technologist must have special training in
mammography. The films taken by the technologist are sent to a radiologist to be read.
radiologist -- A physician who has taken additional years of training
to produce and read x-rays and other types of images (for example, ultrasound or magnetic
resonance imaging; See imaging) for the
purpose of diagnosing abnormalities.
radiotherapy -- Treatment with radiation to destroy cancer cells.
Methods used include linear accelerators, x-rays, cobalt and betatrons. This type of
treatment may be used to reduce the size of a cancer before surgery, or to destroy any
remaining cancer cells after surgery. Also called irradiation and radiation therapy.
Reach to Recovery -- A visitation program of the American Cancer
Society for women who have a personal concern ahout breast cancer. Carefully selected and
trained volunteers who have successfully adjusted to breast cancer and its treatment
provide information and support to women newly diagnosed with the disease.
reconstructive mammaplasty -- See mammaplasty.
rectus abdominus flap procedure
-- A method of breast reconstruction in which tissue from the lower abdominal wall which
receives its blood supply from the rectus abdominus muscle, is used. The tissue from this
area is moved up to the chest to create a breast mound and usually does not require an
implant. Moving muscle and tissue from the lower abdomen to the chest results in
flattening of the lower abdomen (a 'tummy tuck'). Also called a TRAM flap.
recurrence -- Cancer that has re-occurred, or reappeared after
treatment. Local recurrence is at the same site as the original cancer. Metastasis means
that the disease has recurred at a distant site. Regional recurrence is in the lymph nodes
near the site.
reduction mammaplasty -- See mammaplasty.
regimen -- A strict, regulated plan of diet, exercise, or other
activity designed to reach certain goals. In cancer treatment, a plan to treat cancer.
regional involvement -- The spread of cancer from its original site to
nearby areas such as muscles or lymph nodes, but not to distant sites such as other
rehabilitation -- Activities to adjust, heal and return to a full,
productive life after injury or illness. This may involve physical restoration (such as
the use of prostheses, exercises, and physical therapy), counseling, and emotional
relapse -- Reappearance of cancer after a disease-free period.
remission -- Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and
symptoms of advanced cancer in response to treatment; the period during which a disease is
under control. A remission may not be a cure.
replacement hormone therapy -- See estrogen
risk factor -- Anything that increases a
person's chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. The known risk factors for breast
cancer are: family history of the disease, especially in one's mother or sister; beginning
menstrual periods at a young age (before age 12); obesity, never having completed a
pregnancy; first pregnancy after age 30.
saline breast implant -- See breast implant.
saline solution -- Saltwater solution.
sarcoma -- A malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as
cartilage, fat, muscle, or bone. Breast sarcoma is sarcoma occurring in the breast, but
this happens only rarely. Sarcoma is often highly malignant when occurring outside the
breast, but it has a better outlook when it occurs in the breast.
scan -- A study using either x-rays or radioactive isotopes to produce
images of internal body organs. (See also bone scan, brain scan, computerized
axial tomography (CAT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine scan.)
scintillation camera -- Device used to enhance radiation and record
the results for the diagnosis of cancer or other disorders.
scirrhous cancer -- A breast cancer with a hard, firm, fibrous
texture; usually an infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
screening -- The search for disease, such as
cancer, in people without symptoms. Screening may refer to coordinated programs in large
populations. The principal screening measure for breast cancer is mammography.
screening mammography -- See mammogram, screening.
secondary tumor -- A tumor that forms as a result of spread
(metastasis) of cancer from its site of origin.
segmental mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
segmental resection -- See mastectomy.
side effects -- After-effects or secondary effects of treatment, such
as hair loss caused by chemotherapy and fatigue caused by radiation therapy.
silicone gel -- Synthetic gel compound used in breast implants because
of its flexibility, strength, and texture, which is similar to the texture of the natural
breast. Silicone gel breast implants are available for women who have had breast cancer
surgery, but only under the auspices of a clinical trial. (See also breast implant.)
simple mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
skin dimpling -- See dimpling.
S-phase fraction (SPF) -- The percentage of cells in a tumor that are
in the synthesis (S) phase of dividing. A low SPF is a sign that a tumor is slow-growing;
a high SPF shows that the cells are dividing rapidly and the tumor is growing quickly.
staging -- A method of determining and describing the extent of
cancer, based on the size of the tumor, whether regional axillary lymph nodes are
involved, and whether distant spread (metastasis) has occurred. Knowing
the stage at diagnosis helps decide the best treatment and the prognosis.
standard therapy, standard treatment -- See therapy.
stereotactic core needle biopsy -- A method of needle biopsy that is
useful in some cases in which a mass can be seen on mammogram but cannot be located by
touch. Computerized equipment maps the location of the mass and this is used as a guide
for the placement of the needle. (See also needle
stomatitis -- Inflammation or ulcers of the
lips, gums, tongue, palate, floor of the mouth or other tissues in the mouth. This
condition can result as a side effect of some chemotherapies. A similar condition can
occur in the vaginal tissues, as well.
subcutaneous mastectomy -- Surgery to remove internal breast tissue.
The nipple and skin are left intact.
supraclavicular nodes -- Lymph nodes that are above the collarbone
surgery -- An operation; a procedure performed by a surgeon to repair
or remove a part of the body or to find out if disease is present.
survival rate -- A way of expressing how long, on average, people may
live after diagnosis of disease or after treatment of the disease. It is expressed as the
percentage of people who live a certain period of time, as opposed to the percentage of
those who die. For example, the five-year survival rate for women with localized breast
cancer (including all women living five years whether the patient was in remission,
disease-free, or under treatment) was 78% in the 1940s, but in the 1990s it is 93%.
synchronous -- At once; at the same time. (See also bilateral.)
systemic disease -- In breast cancer. this term means that the tumor
that originated in the breast has spread to distant sites, such as the liver, chest,
brain, bones or lungs.
systemic therapy -- Treatment that reaches and affects cells
throughout the body; for example, chemotherapy.
tamoxifen (brand name: Nolvadex) -- A drug
that blocks estrogen; an antiestrogen drug. Blocking estrogen is desirable in some cases
of breast cancer because estrogen feeds the growth of certain types of tumors. This drug
is being tested in a large clinical trial to see if it will help prevent the recurrence of
therapy -- Any of the measures taken to treat a
disease. Alternative therapy is any therapy that has not been scientifically tested and
approved. Some alternative therapies are used along with standard therapy. Some are
harmless, some may be helpful, and others can be dangerous, especially if they divert a
person with cancer from receiving standard therapy. Also called questionable methods or
unproven methods. Some people use alternative therapies along with standard therapy; in
this approach, the health care team should be informed of the alternative method used.
Experimental therapy is any new, as-yet-unproven method that is being tested for specific
purposes in a scientific clinical trial. Standard therapy is any method that has been
scientifically tested and proven useful for specific purposes, and is the standard
treatment. Unproven therapy: See unproven
thermography -- A method in which heat from the breast is measured and
mapped. "Hot spots" may show problem areas, but the test cannot diagnose the
source of the problem (i.e., whether it is cancer). Also called a thermogram, this method
is not reliable in detecting breast cancer.
tissue -- A collection of similar cells, united to perform a
particular function. There are four basic types of tissue in the body: epithelial,
connective, muscle and nerve.
total mastectomy -- See mastectomy.
transillumination -- See diaphanography.
TRAM flap -- See rectus
abdominus flan procedure.
Transverse rectus abdominal muscle flap -- Often called a TRAM flap,
this is a type of breast reconstruction. See rectus
abdominus flap procedure.
tumor -- Tissue growth in which the cells multiply uncontrollably;
also called neoplasm. Can be either benign or malignant.
two-step procedure -- A method in
which breast biopsy for diagnosis and breast surgery for treatment (such as lumpectomy or
mastectomy, if the diagnosis is indeed breast cancer) are performed as two separate
procedures, after an interval of days or weeks. This method is strongly preferred by women
and their health care team because it allows time to consider all options. (See
also one-step procedure.) tylectomy. See lumpectomy.
ultrasonography (ultrasound) -- An
imaging method in which high-frequency sound waves are used to outline a part of the body.
High-frequency sound waves are transmitted through the area of the body being studied. The
soundwave echoes are picked up and displayed on a television screen. This painless method
is used mainly to find out if a structure is solid or liquid. It is useful in detecting
breasts cysts in young women with firm, fibrous breasts. No radiation exposure occurs.
unilateral -- Affecting one side of the body. For example, unilateral
breast cancer occurs in one breast only. (See also bilateral.)
unproven methods of cancer management
-- Any therapy that has not been subjected to traditional scientific study and proved
effective in clinical trials. Such methods range from harmless to life-threatening,
especially if they are used in place of medically sound methods of treatment. The American
Cancer Society maintains a reference file on unproven methods of cancer management.
Information is available on request from the Society's toll-free cancer information
hotline, 1-800-ACS-2345. (See also therapy.)
vaccine -- A procedure in which a small quantity of inactivated or
killed disease-causing organisms (for example, smallpox) are iniected into the body. The
body's immune system responds to the presence of the organisms by forming antibodies that
are specifically targeted to those particular organisms. The result is that the body is
then resistant (immune) to the disease for a specific period of time; in some cases, the
immunity lasts forever. Development of a cancer vaccine is a subject of intense research.
vaginitis -- Any inflammation of the vagina. Atrophic vaginitis is an
inflammation of the vagina in which vaginal tissue becomes thin and dry. This condition
occurs after menopause and is caused by lack of estrogen. (See also menopause.) An
estrogen cream may be prescribed to relieve this problem. Vaginitis as a result of
chemotherapy is similar to the mouth inflammation (stomatitis) that may result from some
chemotherapies. (See also stomatitis.)
white blood cells -- A name for several types of cells in blood that
remain after red cells have been removed. Their purpose is to help defend against
infection. T-cell lymphocytes and B-cell lymphocytes are two types of white blood cells
that play a role in the immune system against cancer.
xeroradiography (xeromammography) -- An outdated form of mammography
that records the image of the breast on paper rather than on film. This method is rarely
x-rays -- One form of radiation that can, at low levels, produce an
image of cancer on film, and at high levels, can destroy cancer cells.