To understand what’s happening during breast cancer, you have to know the lingo. Many of these definitions came from the glossary at Imaginis.com, an award-winning comprehensive resource for news and information on breast cancer created by an independent team of breast health specialists.
Antiestrogen: A substance that blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen on tumours (for example, the drug tamoxifen). Antiestrogens are used to treat breast cancers that depend on estrogen for growth.
Autologous: An autologous reconstruction uses the patient’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast.
Axillary lymph nodes: Bean-shaped glands under the arm that help fight infection and remove waste and fluids from the lymph.
Biopsy: A procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the body for examination to check for cancer or other abnormal cells. A biopsy can be done with a needle or by surgery.
Breast cancer surgeon: Performs clinical breast examinations, biopsies, lumpectomies and mastectomies. May offer breast reconstruction after surgery.
Calcifications: Tiny calcium deposits that resemble grains of salt on a mammogram. They are a sign of change within the breast and may need to be monitored.
Cyst: A fluid-filled sac that is usually benign (non-cancerous). The fluid can be removed for analysis.
Ducts: Tubes in the breast that carry milk from the lobules to nipple.
Estrogen: Female sex hormone that is produced primarily in the ovaries, and in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex.
Grade: The grade of a breast cancer reflects how abnormal it looks under the microscope. There are several grading systems for breast cancer, but all divide cancers into those with the least abnormality (grade 1 or well differentiated), the greatest abnormality (grade 3 or poorly differentiated), and intermediate features (grade 2 or moderately differentiated). Grading is done by a pathologist, who examines cells that have been removed by biopsy. Higher grade cancers tend to grow and spread more quickly.
Green tea: Unfermented, heated and dried leaves of the tea shrub Camellia sinensis. Preliminary trials in animals show some tumour-reducing properties.
Hydrazine sulfate: A common chemical developed by an American research oncologist. Several animal studies have shown that it may enhance chemotherapy effectiveness, though its capacity to stabilize tumour size remains uncertain.
Hormone therapy: Drug or surgical therapy which prevents natural hormones from stimulating the growth of tumours.