Breast cancer lingo A - H

To understand what's happening during breast cancer, you have to know the lingo

To understand what’s happening during breast cancer, you have to know the lingo. Many of these definitions came from the glossary at, 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.

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