Breast CancerBreast Cancer A to Z
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Breast Cancer Glossary




A33 monoclonal antibody
A type of monoclonal antibody used in cancer detection or therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells.

The part of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, and other organs.

See Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant.

A collection of lymphatic fluids and cellular debris (pus), usually from an infection.

Accessory Breast Tissue
This is an uncommon finding of additional breast tissue located in the axillary (underarm) area. This area is difficult to position for imaging. Women with this condition often require an extra mammogram view. This is not a precancerous condition.

A drug that helps reduce pain and fever (TylenolŪ), but not the inflammation.

A drug usually used to reduce the thickness of mucus and ease its removal. It is also used to reverse the toxicity of high doses of acetaminophen. Also called N-acetylcysteine.

A lack of hydrochloric acid in the digestive juices in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid helps digest food.

This is another name for the lobules, or sac-like milk producing glands in the breast or any other similar gland structure. The singular form is acinus.

A drug used in cancer prevention that belongs to the family of drugs called retinoids. It is also used in the treatment of psoriasis.

Related to sound or hearing.

American College of Radiology

Acridine carboxamide
DACA. A substance that is being studied as an anticancer drug. It belongs to the family of drugs called topoisomerase inhibitors.

Actinic keratosis
A precancerous condition of thick, scaly patches of skin. Also called solar or senile keratosis.

In biology, to stimulate a cell in a resting state to become active. This causes biochemical and functional changes in the activated cell.

The application of pressure or localized massage to specific sites on the body to control symptoms such as pain or nausea. Also used to stop bleeding.

The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body in order to control pain and other symptoms. Also see in Resources -> Alternative Breast Cancer Treatment.

Mild electrical stimulation of acupuncture points to control symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Occurring suddenly or in a short space of time, as opposed to chronic.

An antiviral agent used to prevent or treat cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex infections that may occur when the body is immunosuppressed.

AD 32
An anticancer drug that belongs to a family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics. It is an anthracycline.

A general term for a cancer formed from glandular (adeno) tissue, including breast cancer.

A benign (noncancerous) tumor of glandular tissue that can compress adjacent tissue as it grows in size. These tumors are often well defined and usually stay contained. Fibroadenoma is a major cause of false positive readings in mammography. Also see related article -> Benign Breast Lumps.

A group of viruses that cause respiratory tract and eye infections. Adenoviruses used in gene therapy are altered to carry a specific tumor-fighting gene.

Adjuvant therapy
Treatment that is given in addition to the main treatment to make it work better. This is generally chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapy for patients with breast cancer after surgery.

Adrenal glands
A pair of small glands, one located on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands produce the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine that help control heart rate, blood pressure, the way the body uses food, and other vital functions.

A hormone. Also called epinephrine.

Adverse effect
An unwanted side effect of treatment.

Substances made by a fungus that is often found on poorly stored grains and nuts. Aflatoxins have been implicated as a factor in the etiology of primary liver cancer.

AFP : Alpha-fetoprotein
A protein normally produced by a developing fetus. AFP levels are usually undetectable in the blood of healthy non-pregnant adults. An elevated level of AFP suggests the presence of either a primary liver cancer or germ cell tumor.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. AG3340 is a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor. Also called prinomastat.

A quickly growing cancer.

Aggressive lymphoma
A quickly growing cancer that arises in the cells of the lymphatic system.

Drugs that trigger an action from a cell or another drug.

A type of white blood cell; monocytes and lymphocytes are agranulocytes.

A colony-stimulating factor that stimulates the production of blood cells, especially platelets, during chemotherapy. It is a cytokine that belongs to the family of drugs called hematopoietic (blood forming) agents. Also called interleukin-2 or IL-2.

Alendronate sodium
A drug that affects bone metabolism. It is used in treating osteoporosis and Paget's disease, and is being studied in the treatment of hypercalcemia (abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood) and in treating and reducing the risk of bone pain caused by cancer. Alendronate sodium belongs to the family of drugs called bisphosphonates.

Alkaline Phosphatase Test
A tumor marker test that assists in diagnosis of bone and liver metastases. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer Diagnosis.

Alkylating Agents
One group of chemotherapy drugs, referring to the chemical interaction by which these drugs interfere with cell growth and reproduction. Cytoxan is a common alkylating agent.

Taken from different individuals of the same species.

Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation
A procedure in which a person receives stem cells, the cells from which all blood cells develop, from a compatible, though not genetically identical, donor.

A drug that lowers high uric acid (a byproduct of metabolism) levels in the blood caused by some cancer treatments.

A compound used for gene therapy.

The medical name for hair loss. This is a common side effect of chemotherapy since the therapy interferes with fast-growing cells, including those that produce hair.

AFP. A protein normally produced by a developing fetus. AFP levels are usually undetectable in the blood of healthy non-pregnant adults. An elevated level of AFP suggests the presence of either a primary liver cancer or germ cell tumor.

Alternative medicine
Practices not generally recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches and used instead of standard treatments. Alternative medicine includes such practices as dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation. Also see in Resources -> Alternative Breast Cancer Treatment.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.

A type of immune adjuvant (a substance used to help boost the immune response to a vaccine). Also called aluminum sulfate.

ALVAC-CEA vaccine
A cancer vaccine containing a canary pox virus (ALVAC) combined with the human carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) gene.

Tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles in the lungs.

The cessation of menstruation. In breast cancer literature, this is usually as a result of chemotherapy.

A drug used as a chemoprotective drug to control some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

An antibiotic drug used to treat infection. It belongs to the family of drugs called aminoglycoside antibiotics.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called topoisomerase inhibitors.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors. Aminoglutethimide is used to decrease estrogen production and suppress the growth of tumors that need estrogen to grow.

Aminolevulinic acid
A drug used in photodynamic therapy that is absorbed by tumor cells; when exposed to light, it becomes active and kills the cancer cells.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.

An antibiotic drug used to treat infection. It belongs to the family of drugs called penicillins or penicillin-derivatives.

Amphotericin B
An antifungal drug used to treat infection.

Surgery to remove part or all of a limb or appendage.

An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called topoisomerase inhibitors.

An enzyme that helps the body digest starches.

A group of diseases in which protein is deposited in specific organs (localized amyloidosis) or throughout the body (systemic amyloidosis). Amyloidosis may be either primary (with no known cause) or secondary (caused by another disease, including some types of cancer). Generally, primary amyloidosis effects the nerves, skin, tongue, joints, heart, and liver; secondary amyloidosis often effects the spleen, kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands.

A general term for any drug that relieves pain.

A male hormone, sometimes used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

Anecdotal Evidence
These are reports of individual cases of treatments having an effect on breast cancer. These stories are interesting and may lead to valid treatments, but case reports do not provide scientific evidence, in and of themselves. Many alternative treatments are supported by anecdotal evidence, but they are taken in conjunction with another treatment that may have been the cause of remission. Clinical trials are set up to avoid findings that may be due to external causes. Experimental data yields empirical evidence.

A lowered red blood cell count, often the result of chemotherapy. The red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Lowered oxygenation in anemia results in symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, loss of energy, loss of appetite and skin pallor.

Having an abnormal number of chromosomes -- a characteristic of cancer.

A biological process by which cancerous growths send out chemical signals to promote the growth of blood vessels to feed the tumor.

An extreme loss of appetite, caused by treatment or the cancer itself. In the extreme stages anorexia can be life threatening.

Referring to a new class of substances that inhibit angiogenisis, the chemical signals sent by tumors to create their own blood supply.

Immune system proteins that circulate in the blood and recognizes antigens produced by invading agents or abnormal cells.

A drug used to relieve feelings of depression, despair and hopelessness.

Antemetic or antiemetic
A drug that reduces or eliminates the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer therapies. Common examples are: Compazine, Decadron, Zofran, Kytril, Marinol, Ativan.

A class of drugs that bind with estrogen receptors to prevent tumor growth in cases of hormonally sensitive cancer. Tamoxifen is an example of this type of drug.

Any substance that the immune system recognizes as a foreign element. These agents stimulate an immune response.

A type of chemotherapy drugs, the name refers to the way it disrupts cell reproduction. Examples are 5-FU and methotrexate. Also see in Resources -> Chemotherapy.

A class of chemotherapy drugs used to inhibit or prevent the development and growth of cancerous cells

The genetically programmed death of a cell. This process occurs in all normal, healthy body cells.

Archived tissue
Tissue biopsy samples that have been preserved in wax for future study - ask your doctor about the location of your stored tissue

The circular area of dark colored skin at the center of the breast that surrounds the nipple.

Aromatase Inhibitors
These drugs  inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which regulates estrogen production in the adrenal glands. An example of this class of drugs is anastrozole. Also see in Breast Cancer Drugs -> Arimidex.

An accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, usually a result of cancer in the liver or other viscera. Accumulation of fluid in the chest is called effusion. See also pleural effusion.

Fluid withdrawn from a lump, often a cyst, during aspiration.

Withdrawal of fluid from a lump, often an abscess or cyst, with a needle and a syringe.

Asymmetrical cells
Cells which are not proportional or not the same size.

Having no symptoms.

This means not typical or not normal.

Atypical cells
Atypical cells are abnormal cells. In the breast these cells are usually found inside the milk ducts. Atypical cells do not necessarily progress to cancer, but they are known to increase a woman's risk by four to five times.

Atypical Hyperplasia
A benign (noncancerous) condition in which cells have abnormal features and are reproducing more rapidly than normal.

This refers to using your own tissue. In autologous reconstruction, your own tissue is used to reconstruct the breast. In autologous bone marrow transplant, your own bone marrow is used.

Autologous Bone Marrow Transplantation
A procedure in which bone marrow is removed from a person (harvested), stored, and then given back to the same person usually following high dose chemotherapy or intensive radiation therapy.

The underarm or armpit.

Referring to the axilla or armpit.

Axillary Dissection
A diagnostic procedure which involves removal or sampling of the axillary lymph nodes in the armpit, done with breast cancer surgery to determine the Stage of the disease.





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