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National Cancer Institute  logo

Breast-Related Medical Terms
From the National Cancer Institute (NCI)

GLOSSARY OF MEDICAL TERMS
Adjuvant therapy Additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy.
Aromatase inhibitors A drug that prevents the formation of estradiol, a female hormone, by interfering with an aromatase enzyme. Aromatase inhibitors are used as a type of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women who have hormone-dependent breast cancer.
Biopsy The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.
Breast implant A silicone gel-filled or saline-filled sac placed under the chest muscle to restore breast shape
Breast reconstruction Surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy
Breast-sparing surgery An operation to remove the breast cancer but not the breast itself. Types of breast-conserving surgery include lumpectomy (removal of the lump), quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter, or quadrant, of the breast), and segmental mastectomy (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). Also called breast-conserving surgery.
Calcification/calcium deposits Deposits of calcium in the tissues. Calcification in the breast can be seen on a mammogram, but cannot be detected by touch. There are two types of breast calcification, macrocalcification and microcalcification. Macrocalcifications are large deposits and are usually not related to cancer. Microcalcifications are specks of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells. Many microcalcifications clustered together may be a sign of cancer.
Chemosensitivity The susceptibility of tumor cells to the cell-killing effects of anticancer drugs
Early-stage breast cancer Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the axillary lymph nodes. This includes ductal carcinoma in situ and stage I, stage IIA, stage IIB, and stage IIIA breast cancers.
Fibrocystic breast disease A common condition marked by benign (not cancer) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast changes, and mammary dysplasia.
Galactorrhea Milky discharge from the breast even though a woman is not breast feeding. The milk may come from one or both breasts. It may leak with no stimulation or it may leak only when the breasts are touched. Galactorrhea is relatively common in women who have had at least one pregnancy. It may be caused by an underlying disease, particularly when accompanied by other changes in the breast(s).
Hematoma A pool of clotted or partially clotted blood in an organ, tissue, or body space, usually caused by a broken blood vessel
Implants Medical devices that are implanted either under breast tissue or under the chest muscle (submuscular) for breast augmentation or reconstruction. There are two major types: saline-filled and silicone gel-filled. Saline-filled breast implants are silicone shells that are either prefilled or filled with saline during surgery, and some of these allow for adjustments of the filler volume after surgery. Silicone gel-filled breast implants are silicone shells prefilled with silicone gel. Breast implants vary in profile, size, and shell surface (smooth or textured).
Implant rupture If your saline-filled breast implant ruptures, you or your doctor will be able to tell. When saline-filled breast implants rupture, they deflate and the saline solution leaks into your body immediately or over a period of days. You will notice that your implant loses its original size or shape. If your silicone gel-filled breast implant ruptures, it is likely that neither you nor your doctor will know. This is known as a silent rupture. This is why MRI is recommended at three years after implantation and then every two years thereafter to screen for rupture. However, sometimes there are symptoms. These symptoms include hard knots or lumps surrounding the implant or in the armpit, change or loss of size or shape of the breast or implant, pain, tingling, swelling, numbness, burning, or hardening of the breast.
Mastitis A condition in which breast tissue is inflamed. It is usually caused by an infection and is most often seen in nursing mothers.
Mastectomy Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible)
Metastasectomy Surgery to remove one or more metastases (tumors formed from cells that have spread from the primary tumor). When all metastases are removed, it is called a complete metastasectomy.
Necrosis Formation of dead tissue around a breast implant. Factors associated with increased necrosis include infection, use of steroids in the surgical breast pocket, smoking, chemotherapy/radiation, and excessive heat or cold therapy.
Nipple discharge Fluid that is not milk coming from the nipple
Periareolar Around the nipple
Prolactin A hormone that increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It stimulates the human breast to produce milk. Prolactin also helps inhibit ovulation.
Reconstructive surgery Surgery that is done to reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body changed by previous surgery
Reduction mammoplasty Surgical procedure to reduce breast size.
Stage 1 breast cancer The tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller and has not spread outside the breast.
Tissue flap reconstruction The breast can be reconstructed by surgically moving a section of skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels from one area of your body to another. The tissue may be taken from such areas as your lower abdominal area, upper back, or buttocks.
Transaxillary Under the arm


Current as of July 19, 2010




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