Not normal. Deviating from the usual structure,
position, condition, or behavior. In referring
to a growth, abnormal may sometimes mean that it
is cancerous or premalignant (likely to become
The Latin "adjuvans" means to help, particularly
to reach a goal.
Treatment that is given in addition to the
primary (initial) treatment. For breast cancer,
surgery is usually considered the “primary”
treatment, to remove the cancer, and
chemotherapy, when given, would be called
adjuvant therapy. If a cancer has progressed to
a stage where it cannot be surgically removed,
then chemotherapy might itself be the primary
Loss of feeling or awareness. A general
anesthetic puts the person to sleep, using
either gases that are breathed into the lungs,
or with medicines given in the vein. A “local”
anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of
the body such as the breast without affecting
consciousness. Some procedures on the breast
are done using a combination of some sedating
medications, and local anesthesia. This form of
anesthesia is often called “twilight sleep”, or
“monitored anesthesia care” (MAC). People who
have undergone colonoscopy would typically have
experienced this form of anesthesia; in most
cases, there is no memory of the experience,
even though you are not completely asleep.
1. The small darkened area around the nipple of
Removal of a sample of fluid and cells through a
Not typical, not usual, not normal, abnormal.
Atypical is often used to refer to the
appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.
Atypical ductal hyperplasia:
benign but abnormal type of cell growth in
breast tissue, in which the cells lining the
breast ducts become both heaped up on one
another, and irregular in size and shape.
Although this is not cancer, we know that in
women who have such findings as seen on a
biopsy, the risk for developing cancer in the
future is higher. In fact, if this finding is
seen on a biopsy done by just a needle, it is
usually recommended that a larger (surgical)
biopsy be done promptly, to be sure there is no
Pertaining to the cavity beneath the junction of
the arm and the body, better known as the
armpit. This is where the lymph nodes that
“drain” the breast tissue are, and in women
with invasive breast cancer, it is usually
recommended to sample some of these nodes to
check for the possibility of spread beyond the
breast itself. This information is used to
determine the stage of the cancer.
Not cancer. Not malignant . A benign tumor does
not invade surrounding tissue or spread to other
parts of the body. A benign tumor may grow but
it stays put (in the same place).
The removal of a sample of tissue for purposes
human tumor suppressor gene, which produces a
protein, called breast cancer type 1
susceptibility protein. It is found in the
cells of breast and other tissue, where it helps
repair damaged DNA, and destroy the cell when
DNA can't be repaired. If BRCA1 itself is
damaged (mutation), the damaged DNA can let the
cell duplicate without control, and turn into a
cancer. Women who are BRCA1 + (positive) have a
mutation in this gene, which disrupts the
usually ability to prevent other random
mutations during cell growth to evolve into a
A human tumor suppressor gene that normally acts
to restrain the growth of cells in the breast
and ovary but which, when mutated, may
predispose to breast cancer and to ovarian
cancer . BRCA2 mutations have also been
discovered to be responsible for a significant
fraction of early-onset prostate cancer. The
first breast cancer genes identified were BRCA1
and BRCA2. Mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 account
for about half of all cases of inherited breast
cancer, but this is still only about 5% of all
cases of breast cancer in the US. These tumors
tend to occur in young women. BRCA1 and BRCA2
are usually not involved in breast cancer that
is not hereditary.
A procedure in which a sample of a suspicious
breast growth is removed and examined, usually
for the presence of cancer. The sample is
obtained through a needle or removed surgically.
Breast cancer is diagnosed with self- and
physician-examination of the breasts,
mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
There are many types of breast cancer that
differ in their capability of spreading to other
body tissues (metastasis). Treatment of breast
cancer depends on the type and location of the
breast cancer, as well as the age and health of
the patient. The American Cancer Society
recommends that a woman should have a baseline
mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 years.
Between 40 and 50 years of age mammograms are
recommended every other year. After age 50
years, yearly mammograms are recommended.
A localized swelling, knot, bump, bulge or
protuberance in the breast. Breast lumps may
appear in both sexes at all ages. In women, the
fear is usually of breast cancer but many breast
lumps turn out, fortunately, to be due to benign
conditions that can be successfully treated such
as infection, trauma, fibroadenoma, cyst, or
fibrocystic condition of the breast. However, no
breast lump should be dismissed as benign until
it has been checked by a physician.
Another word for cancer. For example, carcinoma
can arise in the breast , colon, liver, lung,
prostate, and stomach. Cancer that arises in
the breast has specific treatment that is
different from cancer that arises in another
organ such as the colon or the lung. Nearly all
cancers can be treated with the various
modalities of surgery, chemotherapy, and
radiation therapy, though the specific treatment
combinations depend not only on the location of
the cancer, but also on the stage of the
cancer, the age of the patient, and other
characteristics of the tumor itself. In breast
cancer, we are learning ways to categorize
cancers in ways that allow us to provide
individualized treatment plans, based on
specific “targets”, or weaknesses, for which we
have specific medications that directly attack
Carcinoma in situ:
Cancer that involves only the place in which it
began and that has not spread. Carcinoma in situ
is an early-stage tumor. It is like having
cancer “seeds” that, although they have the
potential to sprout into a full-fledged invasive
cancer, they have not yet done so. Finding
cancer in this earliest stage is really the best
time to find it, because the treatment at this
point essentially cures the cancer. Following a
curative surgical excision, other treatments may
be recommended, to decrease the possibility of
having other cancer seeds develop and grow.
See also DCIS.
This term can be confusing because it is used in
two different situations, which are not the
same. In the case of "lobular carcinoma in
situ (LCIS)", this does not even mean that you
have "cancer seeds", but only a predisposition
to developing cancer in the future. Years
ago, this finding WAS considered an early form
of cancer, but we now know better. Learn
more on this
1. In the original sense, a chemical that
binds to and specifically kills microbes or
tumor cells. The term chemotherapy was coined in
this regard by Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915).
2. In oncology, drug therapy for cancer.
Also called "chemo" for short.
Chemotherapy is usually given into the veins, so
that it travels throughout the entire body.
For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as
"systemic" therapy, because it can have an
effect on cancer cells that might have spread to
anywhere in the body. Most chemotherapy
agents derive their effect on cancer cells by
inhibiting the division of cells in one way or
another. Since cancer cells are dividing
more rapidly than most any other cells in the
body, the effects on the cancer cells are
greater than the effects on the normal cells.
But rapidly dividing normal cells, such as hair
cells, intestinal lining cells, and bone marrow
cells (where new blood cells are produced) can
also be affected.
Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety
of medications or medical devices by monitoring
their effects on large groups of people.
A cyst is an abnormal, closed sac-like structure
within the breast that contains a liquid, or
semisolid substance. Cysts in the breast are
almost always benign, but can mimic a cancer.
They are often drained with a needle in the
office, as part of the evaluation of a new
breast lump, or abnormal mammogram.
Ductal carcinoma in situ. A precancerous
condition characterized by the clonal
proliferation of malignant-looking cells in the
lining of a breast duct, without evidence of
spread outside the duct membrane to other
tissues in the breast or outside the breast.
DCIS is clearly the precursor (forerunner) of
invasive breast cancer. This is evident from the
sharing of clonal chromosome changes by DCIS and
adjacent invasive cancers. In other words,
invasive breast cancer evolves from DCIS. Also
called intraductal carcinoma.
A simple analogy
to understand DCIS is to think of it as “cancer
Just as a dandelion seed has the ability to take
root, sprout, and spread in your lawn, so can
DCIS take root, and “invade” into the
surrounding tissue. As a seed, it hasn’t done
yet what cancers do, that is, to invade into
tissue, but we know it has all the potential to
do so if left in place.
The process of cutting apart or separating
tissue as, for example, in the study of anatomy
or in the course of a surgical procedure. In
talking about breast cancer, this word is most
often used when talking about removal of lymph
nodes from under the arm, or armpit, or “axilla”.
We use the term “axillary dissection” to
describe the removal of the fatty tissue here.
When lymph nodes are to be removed, it’s not
like picking grapes out of jello, it’s more like
scooping out all the jello (fatty tissue) that
contains the grapes (lymph nodes), and then
later the pathologist will carefully go through
the tissue to find all the lymph contained
there. For this reason, there is no set number
of lymph nodes that will be removed, since it
depends on several factors. The number may
range from 5 up to 40, and sometimes more or
less than this as well.
A passage or a tube with well-defined walls
suitable for the conveyance of air or liquids,
as the bile duct and the pancreatic duct. In
the breast, this of course is the passage way
for milk when it is produced in the lobules, and
this is the site where the most common type of
breast cancer arises.
Ductal carcinoma in situ:
Epidermal growth factor:
A growth factor that plays an important role in
the regulation of cell growth, proliferation,
and differentiation by binding to its receptor
EGFR. It’s importance in breast cancer relates
to it’s role in the uncontrolled growth of
cancer by repeated cell division. Much research
in treatment of cancer is currently focused on
inhibiting the “receptor” where EGF attaches to
the cancer cell wall. By blocking the receptor,
a drug can theoretically prevent EGF from
stimulating cancer cell growth.
Estrogen is a female hormone produced by the
ovaries, and to a lesser degree by the adrenal
glands, liver, and fat cells. Estrogen
deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.
A protein present in breast and other cells that
has an affinity for estrogen in the
circulation. The binding of estrogen causes a
change in the receptor shape which then turns on
certain metabolic processes that stimulates
cellular growth. While this is a good outcome
in normal breast development, in cancer cells,
many of which have increased numbers of estrogen
receptors, the stimulation caused by estrogen
can lead to enhanced cancer growth and spread.
In newly diagnosed breast cancer, estrogen
receptor (ER) is routinely measured in the
cancer cells to help decide about certain
treatment options. If the cancer is ER positive
(+), treatment with estrogen blocking or
inhibiting drugs is typically added to the
overall treatment plan. Options include the use
of an “aromatase inhibitor”, or tamoxifen.
Pertaining to the act of excision, of removal by
surgery. An excisional biopsy is one in which
the lesion is removed by the biopsy. From the
Greek ektome meaning excision.
A biopsy in which an entire biopsy in which an
entire lesion, is removed. A excisional biopsy
is in contrast to an incisional biopsy in which
only a sample of tissue is cut into (incised)
External (beam) radiation therapy (EBRT):
Radiation therapy using a machine to aim
high-energy rays at a tumor in the breast (or
other part of the body). You can think of it as
like having a mammogram, except that the dose of
radiation is much much higher.
A result that appears negative but fails to
reveal a situation. An example of a false
negative: a particular test designed to detect
cancer of the breast is negative but the person
actually has cancer. For screening
mammography, it is important to know that not
all breast cancers are seen. Another way of
saying this is that mammography has a false
negative rate of approximately 5-10%, meaning
that out of every 100 women who actually have
breast cancer, mammograms may not show it in
5-10 of the women. This is why we emphasize
breast self-exams and annual physician breast
exams in addition to mammography. Most women who
might have a ”false negative” mammogram will
have some other indication of the cancer on
A result that is erroneously positive when a
situation is normal. An example of a false
positive: a particular test designed to detect
breast cancer is positive but the person does
not have breast cancer. For screening
mammography, the false positive rate is actually
quite high. Mammograms are usually classified
by a BIRAD number, anywhere from 1-5. Those
classified as “5” are highly suspicious for
breast cancer, and nearly all of these will be
“true positive”. Those classified as “4” are
still suspicious, and biopsy is recommended, but
only about 15% of these will be cancer. We
would say that a BIRAD 4 mammogram is
“positive”, but only about 1 in 6 women will
actually have breast cancer. Ideally, we would
not have to do that many biopsies to find the
women who have cancer, but if don’t do the
biopsies in this group, we won’t find the breast
cancers as early as we would otherwise.
The family structure and relationships within
the family, including information about diseases
in family members. If there are a number of
women in your family who have had breast cancer,
or even one or two with breast cancer at a very
early age, or have had both breast and ovarian
cancer, you may be at risk for carrying one of
the BRCA (breast cancer) genes. Breast cancer
can “run in the family”, but only about 5% of
breast cancers are clearly “in the family” based
on genetic testing for BRCA.
benign rubbery growth of tissue that is most
commonly seen in teenagers and girls in their
20s. They can be multiple at times. Any “lump”
in the breast can cause anxiety at any age, so
it is no surprise that even if a doctor is
confident that a lump is a fibroadenoma just
based on its feel and perhaps by looking at it
with ultrasound, they should nearly always be
biopsied. Most of them are easily removed, and
this may be the better option in many cases.
Testing a sample of blood (or another fluid or
tissue) for evidence of a gene. The evidence can
be biochemical, chromosomal, or genetic. The aim
is to learn whether a gene for a disease is
present or absent.
An educational counseling process for
individuals and families who have a genetic
disease or who are at risk for such a disease.
Genetic counseling is designed to provide
patients and their families with information
about their condition and help them make
Tests done for clinical genetic purposes.
Genetic tests may be done for diverse purposes
pertaining to clinical genetics, including the
diagnosis of genetic disease in children and
adults; the identification of future disease
risks; the prediction of drug responses; and the
detection of risks of disease to future
A measure of how abnormal in appearance cancer
cells are, graded 1-3. Some cancers are very
similar from one cell to another, while others
are quite variable and may have very bizarre
shapes, and have very large nuclei. The more
abnormally appearing cancers have a higher
“grade”, and typically these higher grade
cancers may be more aggressive than lower grade
It is easy to confuse "grade"
but they are completely different. The
grade of a
cancer is a single factor among many
characteristics that describe the cancer cells.
In terms of determining what treatment
combination should be used for each patient, the
stage of the cancer is more significant.
A chemical substance produced in the body that
controls and regulates the activity of certain
organs. With regard to breast cancer, the most
important hormone is estrogen. Progesterone
plays a lesser role. Breast cells, both normal
and cancerous, can have “receptors” on their
cells that can interact with estrogen in the
blood stream. There are some breast cancer
treatments that work by blocking this
interaction on the surface of the cells.
A sudden wave of mild or intense body heat
caused by rushes of hormonal changes resulting
from decreased levels of estrogen. Hot flashes
can occur at any time and may last from a few
seconds to a half-hour. They are due to blood
vessel opening and constricting and are often a
symptom of menopause. Hot flashes sometimes are
caused, or increased, by the use of tamoxifen,
an estrogen blocking drug used in women with
estrogen receptor (ER) positive cancer.
A condition in which there is an increase in the
number of normal cells in a tissue or organ.
This is often seen on breast biopsies, and does
not have that much significance, unless the
hyperplasia is considered “atypical”. In this
case, although there is no cancer, the risk
for developing cancer in the future is
Also see "carcinoma in situ". In the normal location. An "in situ" tumor is
one that is confined to its site of origin and
has not invaded neighboring tissue or gone
elsewhere in the body. In breast cancer, the
term ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is
such an example. The “in situ” phrase means that
we can tell for sure that these cells have the
POTENTIAL to do their cancer thing (which means,
to invade into surrounding tissue and eventually
spread elsewhere), but that they have not yet
invaded even the tissue right around the DCIS
cells. You can think of these cells as “cancer
seeds”, which haven’t yet sprouted, but have all
the capability of doing so if left in place.
Learn more on this
A cut. When making an incision, a surgeon is
making a cut.
A biopsy in which only a sample of the
suspicious tissue is cut into (incised) and
removed for purposes of diagnosis. A incisional
biopsy is in contrast to an excisional biopsy in
which an entire lesion, usually a tumor, is
Also called ductal carcinoma in situ. See: DCIS.
Learn more on
this web page.
This term is frequently included as a descriptor
of the breast cancer on the pathology report.
It is important to know that this term does not
carry any extra information other than another
way of saying that it is cancer. So it is
really kind of redundant. But the term is
used to distinguish from the non-invasive cells
that are seen sometimes seen, so called "cancer
seeds (or intraductal
cancer)", in which case, there has not even
been any "sprouting" of the cancer cells into
surrounding tissues. Cancer cells which
have "sprouted" into the surrounding tissues are
called invasive, and this is the case even in
the very earliest stages of breast cancer.
So don't think that this term carries any awful
The surgical removal of a small tumor (a lump)
which may or may not be benign (or malignant).
Lumpectomy has come to refer specially to the
removal of a lump from the breast .
An almost colorless fluid that travels through
vessels called lymphatics in the lymphatic
system and carries cells that help fight
infection and disease. Cancer cells in the
breast sometimes break off from the cancer
“lump” in the breast and float along in the
lymph, just like a hobo might jump on a train to
get from one place to another, though the train
was not intended to transport hoboes. The
cancer cells can then potentially sprout and
grow inside the lymph nodes at the “end of the
line”, under the arm (axilla). It is for this
reason that your surgeon will need to check some
lymph nodes surgically to be sure there has been
Also sometimes referred to as lymph glands,
lymph nodes are small rounded or bean-shaped
masses of lymphatic tissue surrounded by a
capsule of connective tissue . Lymph nodes are
located in many places in the lymphatic system
throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter the
lymphatic fluid and store special cells that can
bacteria or other “foreign” material traveling
through the body in the lymph fluid. The lymph
nodes are critical for the body’s immune
response and are principal sites where many
immune reactions are initiated. During a
physical examination, doctors often look for
swollen lymph nodes in areas where lymph nodes
are abundant, including the neck, around the
collarbone , the armpit ( axilla ), and the
Cancer cells sometimes “hitch a ride”, like a
hobo on a train, in the lymph system, and in
this way can start growing inside lymph nodes.
In breast cancer, this most likely will be seen
in the lymph nodes under the arm, or axilla.
1. One of the lymphatics, vessels that
convey the lymph fluid. 2. Pertaining to
the lymph, lymphoid tissue, or lymphocytes.
From the Latin lympha (water or water goddess)
The tissues and organs, including the bone
marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes, that
produce and store cells that fight infection and
disease. The channels that carry lymph are also
part of this system.
Small thin channels similar to blood vessels
that do not carry blood, but collect and carry
tissue fluid (called lymph) from the body to
ultimately drain back into the blood stream.
A common chronic, and at times, debilitating
condition in which excess fluid called lymph
collects in tissues and causes swelling (edema )
in them. This condition does not occur nearly
so often today as it did in the last century.
When it does occur, symptoms can range from very
mild to very severe. Unfortunately, when it
does occur, treatment options are limited to
decreasing the severity through the use of
massage techniques, compression garments, and
Having the ability to invade into nearby tissue
and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the
An X-ray of the breast using a device that
compresses and flattens it. There are two basic
mammogram tests -- screening mammograms and
diagnostic mammograms. A screening mammogram is
the more basic exam, and is recommended on an
annual basis after age 40, even if there are no
symptoms related to the breast. A diagnostic
test is used if there is some symptom, such as a
lump, or localized tenderness, or nipple
discharge, or if there was some vague
abnormality seen on a screening mammogram. This
test is a bit more involved, and may lead to
other studies such as ultrasound. When a
“diagnostic mammogram” is done, the radiologist
usually interprets the studies right away, and
you will likely receive a specific answer about
the results before you leave the facility. For
screening mammograms, the result is likely to be
delayed a day or two, and the result will be
available through your physician.
There is an entire page devoted to this
relatively new way to give radiation therapy for
breast cancer after lumpectomy, such that the
treatment is given in just 5 days, two
treatments each day.
Follow this link.
Margin: In the treatment of breast
cancer, the surgical procedure to remove the
cancer in the breast should remove the entire
lump of cancer and some normal breast tissue all
around. This is not always as easy as it
might seem, because sometimes there are
microscopic roots or tendrils extending outward
from the lump that is felt. The evidence
of cancer cells on the outside of the removed
tissue might only be seen after the pathologist
has completed the microscopic exam a few days
later. If cancer cells are seen on the
outer surface of the tissue that's been removed,
this is called a "positive margin".
Although there are some exceptions, in most
cases if there is a positive margin, another
operation may be necessary to be certain no
cancer remains in the breast, and so, to have an
acceptably low risk for any cancer coming back
in the breast in the future.
A general term for removal of the breast,
usually to remove cancerous tissue. Drainage
tubes are left in the surgical incision for a
few days after the operation; these are removed
when drainage has decreased sufficiently. After
the mastectomy, reconstructive surgery may be
performed to restore a more normal appearance.
Some patients choose to avoid reconstructive
surgery, and wear special undergarments instead.
The very first treatment that was found to treat
breast cancer was a “radical mastectomy”, in the
late 1800’s. This procedure removed not only
the entire breast, but also the skin, and the
muscles of the chest wall, and all the lymph
nodes under the arm and clavicle. We no longer
utilize this radical operation when a mastectomy
is done. Sometimes we can even leave
essentially the entire skin “envelope” of the
breast, and then “re-fill” the skin envelope
with whatever is being used for the breast
reconstruction. This “skin-sparing” mastectomy
typically provides a much more natural breast
The term "partial
mastectomy" might also be used, which is not the
same as a "mastectomy". This term, partial
mastectomy, is often used interchangeably for
The time in a woman's life when menstrual
periods permanently stop; it is also called the
"change of life." Menopause is the opposite of
1. The process by which cancer spreads
from the place at which it first arose as a
primary tumor to distant locations in the body.
Cancer cells can break away from the cancer lump
where it originated, and travel by floating
along in the blood stream, or along the
lymphatic vessels. 2. The cancer
resulting from the spread of the primary tumor.
For example, someone with breast cancer may have
a metastasis in their brain.
The spread from one part of the body to another.
When cancer cells metastasize and cause
secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic
tumor are like those in the original cancer.
Pertaining to a single clone of cells, a single
cell and the progeny of that cell. As opposed to
An antibody produced by a single clone of cells
(specifically, a single clone of hybridoma
cells) and therefore a single pure homogeneous
type of antibody. Monoclonal antibodies can be
made in large amounts in the laboratory and are
a cornerstone of immunology. The term
"monoclonal" pertains to a single clone of
cells, a single cell and the progeny of that
Node: Literally a knot, a node is a
collection of tissue. For example a lymph node,
is a collection of lymphoid tissue. A nodule is
a small node, a little collection of tissue.
This test is
performed on tissue from the initial biopsy or
lumpectomy specimen. It uses the unique genetic
profile of each woman’s breast cancer to make an
accurate prediction about whether the cancer will
recur. It measures an array of genes that are known to
be associated with more aggressive tumors. The test has
been shown to be much more powerful than current
predictive methods, which are based on “clinical
staging”, which is based on the size of the tumor and
the status of the lymph nodes. Find more info
A tumor that is at the original site where it
first arose. For example, a primary breast tumor
is one that arose in the breast as opposed to
one that arose elsewhere and metastasized
(spread) to the breast. The original tumor is
sometimes called "the primary." It is rare for
cancers that originate elsewhere to spread to
the breast. Most cancers IN the breast are
breast “primaries”. Breast cancer can and does
spread to other organs. As it turns out, if a
breast cancer is going to spread elsewhere, it
seems to have a propensity for spreading to
lymph nodes, lung, bones, liver, or brain more
than anywhere else.
A female hormone and the principal
progestational hormone that is made mainly by
the corpus luteum in the ovary and by the
placenta. Progesterone prepares the lining (endometrium)
of the uterus (the womb) to receive and sustain
the fertilized egg and so permits pregnancy.
Similarly refers to synthetic versions of the
hormone. Also known as progestational hormone.
In the breast, cancer cells can have cell
receptors that interact with progesterone in the
blood stream. (Progesterone receptor [PR]
positive). This has less significance than
being “estrogen receptor +”.
1. The expected course of a disease .
2. The patient's chance of recovery.
The prognosis predicts the outcome of a disease
and therefore the future for the patient .
An artificial substitute or replacement of a
part of the body such as a tooth , eye, a facial
bone, the palate , a hip, a knee or another
joint , the leg, an arm, etc. A prosthesis is
designed for functional or cosmetic reasons or
both. In breast cancer disease, the term
prosthesis usually refers to a padding worn
inside the bra to restore the shapeliness of the
breast after mastectomy, if a reconstruction has
not been done.
1. Rays of energy. Gamma rays and X-rays
are two of the types of energy waves often used
in medicine. 2. The use of energy waves
to diagnose or treat disease.
Radiation therapy :
The use of high-energy rays to damage cancer
cells, stopping them from growing and dividing.
Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local
treatment that affects cancer cells only in the
See also External (beam) radiation therapy.
The treatment of disease with ionizing
radiation. Also called radiation therapy.
1. In cell biology, a structure on the
surface of a cell (or inside a cell) that
selectively receives and binds a specific
substance. There are many receptors. In breast
cancer, the most commonly discussed receptors
are for estrogen and progesterone. To take an
example, the receptor for estrogen, a molecule
that acts as a messenger for the proliferation
of breast tissue, is a unique harbor on the cell
surface where estrogen docks. Without this
receptor, or if a medication (eg, tamoxifen) is
taken which blocks this receptor, estrogen
cannot dock and cannot deliver its instructions
to proliferate (go through cell division.
To occur again. To return. In breast cancer,
after treatment has been completed, there is
typically no sign of any cancer anywhere in the
body. Even so, some women will later be found
to have some of the same breast cancer growing
again, either in the same area (local
recurrence) or elsewhere (distant recurrence).
The return of a sign, symptom or disease after a
remission. The reappearance of cancer cells at
the same site or in another location is,
unfortunately, a familiar form of recurrence.
Back again. A recurrent fever is a fever that
has returned after an intermission: a
Screening mammogram :
A mammogram (an X-ray of the breast) in women
who have no signs of breast cancer . It usually
involves two X-rays of each breast. The aim of a
screening mammogram is to detect a tumor that
cannot be felt. Most mammography facilities
have switched to “digital” mammography, just as
most photographers have switched to digital
cameras. The advantages are in ease of storage,
and of manipulating the image for interpreting
them. For example, the image can be made darker
or lighter, or the black and white can be
“inverted”, or the image can be greatly
magnified. Use of digital mammography has
simplified the process for the patient, since it
is much less often necessary to do them over.
As regards cancer, the extent of a cancer,
especially whether the disease has spread from
the original site to other parts of the body.
Doctors determine the size of the tumor in its
original location, whether there is any cancer
seen in the lymph nodes that are nearby, and
whether there is any evidence of cancer that has
spread from the original site to elsewhere in
the body. We have an entire page devoted to
word used to describe cancer cells is the
It is very easy to confuse these two terms, so
you might want to look at this definition as
well, to be sure you don't mix them up.
An abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors are a classic
sign of inflammation, and can be benign or
malignant (cancerous). There are dozens of
different types of tumors. Their names usually
reflect the kind of tissue they arise in, and
may also tell you something about their shape or
how they grow. For example, a medulloblastoma is
a tumor that arises from embryonic cells (a
blastoma) in the inner part of the brain (the
medulla). Diagnosis depends on the type and
location of the tumor. Tumor marker tests and
imaging may be used; some tumors can be seen
(for example, very advanced tumors of the
breast) or felt (palpated with the hands).
Cancer may be found when it is very small, and
in such cases, cannot be felt. Although there
is no “tumor” this would still be a cancer, if
the cells show the typical cancer
characteristics as visualized under the
The use of the word tumor is sometimes
confusing, since it doesn’t always mean cancer.
A gene that protects a cell from one step on the
path to cancer. When this gene is mutated to
cause a loss or reduction in its function, the
cell can progress to cancer, usually in
combination with other genetic changes.
High-frequency sound waves. Ultrasound waves can
be bounced off of tissues using special devices.
The echoes are then converted into a picture
called a sonogram. Ultrasound imaging, referred
to as ultrasonography, allows physicians and
patients to get an inside view of soft tissues
and body cavities, without using invasive
techniques. Ultrasound is often used to examine
the breast if a lump is felt, or if a density is
seen on screening mammography. It is usually
very good at telling the difference between a
simple cyst, filled with fluid, and a solid mass
of tissue. In addition, one can often tell the
difference between benign tissue, such as a
fibroadenoma, and a cancerous tissue, based on
the ultrasound image.
Ultrasound is often used to
help the doctor do a biopsy, as it allows a
biopsy needle to be placed precisely in the
Return to Breast Cancer Home Page