Breast CancerBreast Cancer A to Z
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breast cancer awareness pink ribbon Breast Cancer Glossary




A "gatekeeper" gene for many cancers. Mutations in this gene tend to make cells grow without normal controls.

A class of chemotherapy drugs that prevents cancer cell division and growth and promotes cancer cell death.

Paget's Disease
About three percent of breast cancer patients have this form of the disease, involving the nipple. Also ee related article -> Paget's Disease - A Rare Form of Breast Cancer

That which relieves pain and other symptoms of disease, or controls the disease, without likelihood of cure. In palliative care, the patient's quality of life and comfort is the focus of concern.
Also see in Resources -> Facing a Loss

Examining by pressing the surface of the skin to feel the organs or tissues underneath.

Partial or Segmental Mastectomy
Removes the tumor, some of the normal breast tissue around it and the lining over the chest muscle below the tumor. Some of the axillary lymph nodes may also be removed. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer Surgery.

A specialist who studies all aspects of disease with an emphasis on the nature, causes, and development of abnormal conditions, as well as the structural and functional changes that result from disease processes A doctor who verifies the identity of diseases by examining cells and tissue samples.

Pathology lab
The location, or laboratory, where pathologists study and examine cell and tissue samples for signs of abnormality and disease.

Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation
A method of replacing blood forming cells destroyed by high dose cancer treatment. Stem cells, immature blood cells in the circulating blood, are similar to those in the bone marrow. They are given after treatment to help the bone marrow recover and resume production of healthy blood cells. Transplantation may be autologous (the person's blood cells harvested earlier), allogeneic (blood cells donated by someone else), or syngeneic (blood cells donated by an identical twin). This procedure may also be called peripheral stem cell support.

Phase I Clinical Trial
Following development, in vitro and animal testing, a drug will be tested on humans. This is the first level of the clinical trials procedure by which new drugs or combinations of drugs are tested and approved. A small number of patients are given a new, experimental treatment. The focus is on determining safety, dosage and short-term effectiveness.

Phase II Clinical Trial
The second level of clinical trials in human beings enrolls a larger number of participants than Phase I. Phase II trials also focus on effectiveness and on side effects over a longer period of time.

Phase III Clinical Trial
The final phase of clinical trials testing. The experimental treatment is compared with an established testing treatment for safety, effectiveness, dosage and side effects. These trials involve large number of patients in many treatment centers. They are often "double-blinded" so that neither researchers nor patients know which treatment is being administered. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer Clinical Trials.

Photo-dynamic Therapy (PDT)
A new therapy that uses a light source to activate targeted delivery of a chemotherapy drug. It has been used with skin metastases with some success.

Physician's Data Query (PDQ)
A database maintained by the National Cancer Institute providing the latest treatment information.

An substance used in place of an active drug in trials to compare the effects. It is an established clinical fact that placebos show some success, possibly as a result of patient expectations. Because of this "placebo effect," the best clinical trials are "double-blinded," meaning that neither patients nor researchers know who is receiving the drug until the conclusion of the study. Clinical trials where a new treatment is being tested against established treatments do not use placebos.

Plastic Surgeon
A surgeon who specializes in reducing scarring or disfigurement. Breast reconstructive surgery is performed by plastic surgeons.

Disc shaped blood cell which aids in blood clotting.

The membranous lining around the lungs.

Pleural Effusion
Fluid that has accumulated around the lungs in the pleural cavity, often the result of metastatic spread of cancer to the lungs. See effusion.

See Combination Chemotherapy.

Positive Predictive Value
The proportion of cases with a positive test who are found by diagnostic evaluation to have breast cancer. The higher the positive predictive value, the lower the number of false- positive results. 10 cancers out of 100 abnormal evaluations equals a positive predictive value of 10%.

Positron Emission Tomography Scan (PET Scan)
A computerized image of the metabolic activity of body tissues used to determine the presence of disease. Studies report that PET scans are more accurate than mammograms or CAT scans in discovering very early stage breast cancer

The number of instances of a given disease (e.g. breast cancer) in a given population at a designated time.

Preventive Care
Concept of health care in which an emphasis is placed on education and on early detection of medical conditions. This usually includes encouraging routine physical examinations, diagnostic tests, immunizations, physical conditioning and nutrition programs. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer, Diet & Nutrition. Also see related articles -> Breast Cancer & Diet: The Prevention Connection | Watch Your Weight for Breast Health.

Primary tumor
Site where a tumor first appeared.

A female hormone.

The likely outcome or course of a disease.

An artificial replacement of a part of the body. If a total mastectomy is required to treat breast cancer, many women choose to wear a prosthetic breast. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer & Prosthetics.





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