Breast CancerBreast Cancer A to Z
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Breast Cancer Glossary




Surgical removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Malignant tumor arising in the bone, cartilage, fibrous tissue or muscle.

A procedure that allows doctors to examine the organs inside the body. Liver scans, bone scans, and computed tomography (CT) or computed axial tomography (CAT) scans are often helpful in diagnosing and staging cancer. With liver scans and bone scans, radioactive substances are injected into the blood stream or swallowed. A scanner that can detect radiation is used to create pictures and find any areas that have collected excess amounts of the radiation. In CT scanning, an x-ray machine is connected to a computer to produce detailed pictures of internal organs.

Preventive checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Mammograms and breast self exams are examples of screening for breast cancer.

Screening Mammogram
A preventive procedure, normally consisting of two x-rays of each breast, with interpretation for a women with no symptoms of breast cancer.

Segmental Mastectomy
The removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may be taken out. Sometimes this is called a partial mastectomy.

Convulsions or sudden, involuntary movements of the muscles.

Sensitivity is the proportion of people with a disease in the tested population who are identified. Sensitivity is a measure of the probability that any given case will be identified by the test. A test that reports that everyone has breast cancer would not be a sensitive test. One that identifies only those with breast cancer is an extremely sensitive test.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
In this procedure a dye or radioactive substance is injected near the tumor. This injected material goes into the sentinel lymph nodes, the first lymph nodes that cancer is likely to spread to from the  tumor. A surgeon then looks for the dye or uses a scanner to find the sentinel lymph nodes and removes one or more of them in order to check for the presence of cancerous cells.

Side effects
Problems that occur when treatments affect healthy cells. Common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores. Many side effects can be reduced with medication.

Somatic cells
Soma means body - the somatic cells are all the body cells except the reproductive cells.

Specificity is the proportion of healthy people who are identified by the screening test. It gives an idea of the probability of correctly identifying a person who does not have a disease with a screening test.

A distinct phase in the course of a disease. Stages of  breast cancer are typically defined by the localization or spread of the tumor. In situ, localized, regional or distant spread usually define which stage the cancer  is in.

Stage I
The cancer is no bigger than 2 centimeters (about 1 inch) and has not spread outside the breast. This stage is the ideal time to find the cancer. Treatments are most effective at this stage.
Also see Stage 1 Breast Cancer.

Stage II
The cancer is not bigger than 2 centimeters, but has spread to the lymph nodes, or the cancer is between 2 and 5 centimeters and may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes. If the cancer is bigger than 5 centimeters, it has not spread to the axillary nodes.
Also see Stage II Breast Cancer.

Stage III
(IIIa) The cancer is bigger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the lymph nodes or is smaller than 5 centimeters, but has spread into the lymph nodes and other structures attached to them.

(IIIb) The cancer has spread to tissues near the breast usually the chest wall, including the ribs and muscles in the chest.

Stage IV
The most serious stage where the breast cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain.

Stem cell
All blood cells arising in the bone marrow.

Use of a computer and scanning devices to create three- dimensional pictures of the inside of the breast or other organ. This method can be used to direct a biopsy, external radiation, or the insertion of radiation implants depending on the site of the cancer.

Stereotactic Biopsy
An x-ray guided method to localize and sample suspicious lesions discovered on mammography. It is generally used to sample small, non-palpable breast lumps or lesions using fine-needle aspiration for cytology or core-needle biopsy for histology.

Stereotactic Localization
A diagnostic method used to locate the precise area for breast biopsy.

Supportive Care
Palliative treatment which is given to prevent, control, or relieve complications and side effects and to improve the patient's comfort and quality of life.

A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out if disease is present.
Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer Surgery.

Surgical Consult
A  meeting between the breast cancer patient and surgeon to discuss the client's condition. This is not necessarily followed by surgery. Many surgical consults result in a biopsy and a diagnosis of benign breast disease.

Surgical Pathology
This is a diagnostic procedure performed in some cancer cases in order to verify the pathology of the disease processes that are surgically accessible for treatment or diagnosis.

Anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis. This is true whether treatment is in progress or has been completed. Also see in Resources -> Breast Cancer Survivors.

A lesion or mass that appears at the same time as the original mass that is detected by clinical breast exam or mammogram. Two tumors appearing at the same time are synchronous and one is not a metastasis of the other.

Affecting the entire body.

Systemic Therapy
Treatment that uses substances that travel through the blood stream to reach cancer cells through the entire body. Most breast cancer chemotherapy treatments are systemic, but there are some newer treatments that are designed to target only cells in certain areas or only cancer cells. Research is pushing for drugs that do not attack any other cells, but the work is still in progress.





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