Glossary of Terms
Removing a body part or tissue or stopping its function. Ablation may be done with surgery, hormones, medicines, radiofrequency, heat, or other methods. Ovarian ablation means removing the ovaries with surgery, or using medicines to stop the ovaries from working.
Describes a lesion or growth that does not appear healthy, or normal. An abnormal lesion or growth may be cancer, premalignant (likely to become cancer) or benign (not cancer).
A chemotherapy medicine used to treat metastatic breast cancer. It is also being studied in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer. Abraxane is a type of mitotic inhibitor. Also called ABI-007, nanoparticle paclitaxel, paclitaxel albumin-stabilized nanoparticle formulation, and protein-bound paclitaxel.
A measure of the risk of a certain event happening. In cancer research, an example of an 'absolute risk' can include the statistical likelihood that a cancer-free person of a given age will develop that cancer over a certain period of time. For example, a woman 35 years of age with no known risk factors for breast cancer has a 13.5 percent absolute risk of getting breast cancer, over a lifetime of 90 years.
An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination treatment used with other types of therapy in all stages of breast cancer. It contains doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide. Also called AC.
An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination treatment used in breast cancer. It contains doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol). Also called AC-T and AC-Taxol regimen.
An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination treatment used in breast cancer. It contains doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol) and trastuzumab (Herceptin). Also called AC-T-T, AC-TH regimen, and sequential AC/Taxol-Trastuzumab regimen.
An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination treatment in breast cancer. It contains doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol). Also called AC-T and AC-T regimen.
An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination treatment used in breast cancer. It contains doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol) and trastuzumab (Herceptin). Also called AC-T-T, AC-T-T regimen, and sequential AC/Taxol-Trastuzumab regimen.
accelerated partial-breast irradiation
A type of radiation therapy given only to the part of the breast that has cancer in it. Accelerated partial-breast irradiation gives a higher dose over a shorter time than is given in standard whole-breast radiation therapy. Accelerated partial-breast irradiation may be given with internal or external sources of radiation. Also called partial-breast irradiation.
In breast cancer prevention clinical trials, a study that focuses on finding out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. Actions that have been tested in 'action study' trials include diet, exercise and alcohol intake.
A specific spot on the body where an acupuncture needle may be inserted to control pain and other symptoms. Also called acupuncture point.
Applying pressure or local massage to specific sites on the body to control symptoms such as pain or nausea. It is a type of complementary or integrative medicine, meaning a treatment used in addition to standard therapies. Some women affected by breast cancer find acupressure helpful in decreasing nausea and other side effects of treatment.
A type of complementary or integrative medicine, meaning a treatment used in addition to standard therapies. Treatment with acupuncture involves inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain or make other symptoms of breast cancer treatment or of the disease itself go away. Some women affected by breast cancer find it useful in controlling nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy treatment.
acupuncture needle: A stainless steel needle that is slightly thicker than a human hair. Acupuncture needles are inserted through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms.
A specific spot on the body where an acupuncture needle may be inserted to control pain and other symptoms. Also called acupoint.
acupuncture point injection
Using mild electric currents on certain acupuncture points (spots on the body where an acupuncture needle may be inserted to control pain and other symptoms) on the skin. It is being studied in the treatment of dry mouth caused by radiation therapy for cancer. Also called acupuncture-like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (ALTENS).
A person trained in acupuncture, a therapy that uses thin needles inserted through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. Acupuncture is a type of complementary medicine.
Mild electrical stimulation of acupuncture points that may help control side effects such as nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Symptoms or signs that begin and worsen quickly and last for a short time; not chronic.
Pain that comes on quickly and can be severe but lasts a short time.
A type of cancer that starts in gland tissue, or tissue that makes and secretes a substance. The ducts and lobules of the breast are gland tissues because they make breast milk, so cancers starting in these areas are often called adenocarcinomas.
Large or swollen lymph glands.
A disease or abnormal change in a gland. Breast adenosis is a benign condition in which the lobules are larger than usual.
advanced breast cancer
Also called metastatic breast cancer or Stage IV breast cancer. A diagnosis of advanced or metastatic breast cancer means the breast cancer cells have spread from the breast and nearby lymph nodes to tissues or organs far away from the breast, such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain, where tumors form. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer aims to keep the cancer under control for as long as possible. Depending on location and traits of the cancer, it is possible to live well for years after diagnosis. Many clinical trials focus on the treatment of advanced breast cancer, with goals of finding the most effective treatments possible.
A legal document that states the treatment or care a person wishes to receive or not receive if she becomes unable to make medical decisions (for example, because of being unconscious or in a coma). Some types of advance directives are living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.
advanced practice nurse
A registered nurse with additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. Advanced practice nurses are licensed by the state and certified by national nursing organizations. In cancer care, an advanced practice nurse may manage the primary care of an individual and her or his family, based on a practice agreement with a doctor. Also called APN, NP, and nurse practitioner.
An unexpected medical problem that happens during treatment with a medicine or other therapy. Adverse effects do not have to be caused by the medicine or therapy, and they may be mild, moderate or severe. Also called adverse event.
A medicine or substance used in addition to the primary therapy.
Another treatment used together with the primary treatment. Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment. Also called adjunctive therapy.
Another treatment used together with the primary treatment. Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment. Also called adjunct therapy.
Cancer treatment given after surgery to lower the risk that the breast cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy or biological therapy.
Physical activity that increases the heart rate and the body's use of oxygen. It helps improve physical fitness. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help with treatment-related fatigue and insomnia. Exercise during breast cancer treatment has been shown to improve self-esteem and is being studied for its effectiveness in helping with other side effects such as chemobrain, or problems with thinking and memory.
In cancer prevention, a clinical trial that studies whether taking certain medicines, vitamins, minerals or food supplements can prevent cancer. Also called chemoprevention study. Examples of agent studies include clinical trials for tamoxifen and letrozole, as well as lifestyle changes such as diet.
Something that worsens a condition. For example, diagnosis of breast cancer tends to be an aggravating factor in insomnia, and hot weather can be an aggravating factor for the existing condition of lymphedema.
Describes a tumor or disease that forms, grows or spreads quickly. It may also describe treatment that is more severe or intense than usual.
AJCC staging system
A system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer in which TNM is used to describe the extent of cancer in the body. T describes the size of the tumor and whether it has invaded nearby tissue. N describes whether cancer has traveled to nearby lymph nodes, and M describes whether cancer has metastasized (spread to distant parts of the body, such as the bone, liver, lungs or brain). Also called TNM staging system.
A chemotherapy medicine used in breast cancer, multiple myeloma and ovarian epithelial cancer. Alkeran is an alkylating medicine and is also called melphalan. Women should avoid becoming pregnant while taking this medicine.
A type of medicine used in cancer treatment. It interferes with cell DNA and blocks cancer cell growth.
Also called fexofenadine, Allegra is an antihistamine used to treat certain allergy symptoms by blocking a chemical released during an allergic response that causes itching, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, and watery eyes. Antihistamines are given as pretreatment when using paclitaxel, a chemotherapy agent. Antihistamines can prevent hypersensitivity reactions with paclitaxel use, such as decreased blood pressure and impaired breathing.
Another term for 'mainstream medicine,' also called biomedicine, conventional medicine, orthodox medicine, and Western medicine. Allopathic medicine is the system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals treat symptoms and diseases using medicines, radiation, or surgery.
The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found. Alopecia can be a side effect of some cancer treatments, including doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and paclitaxel (Taxol). Some breast cancer medicines cause only thinning or partial hair loss, and others cause no hair loss at all.
A medicine used as a chemoprotective agent to control some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
A nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor used to decrease the production of estrogen in women or testosterone in men and suppress the growth of tumors that need those sex hormones to grow. It is used in treatment of advanced breast cancer.
Also called amitriptyline hydrochloride, and referred to by the brand names Elavil, Endep or Vanatrip. A tricyclic antidepressant medicine used to treat depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and pain. It is used to treat nerve pain following breast cancer treatment.
A type of steroid that is used in medicine to repair body tissues and to increase appetite and the growth of muscles. Anabolic steroids are made in the lab from testosterone, a male hormone, and are sometimes used to treat specific types of breast cancer.
A medicine that reduces pain. Analgesics include aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), among others.
A term used to describe cancer cells that divide rapidly and have little or no resemblance to normal cells.
Brand name: Arimidex. An anticancer drug that is used to slow or stop estrogen production that hormone-sensitive tumors need to grow. It is a type of nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor, and is used in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer.
In a clinical trial, a medical test on a participant that is not a part of the original study design.
A condition in which the number of red blood cells in the body is below healthy levels. Anemia can be a side effect of chemotherapy.
A loss of feeling or awareness caused by medicines or other substances. Anesthesia keeps a person from feeling pain during surgery or other procedures. Local anesthesia is a loss of feeling in one small area of the body. Regional anesthesia is a loss of feeling in a part of the body, such as an arm or leg. General anesthesia is a loss of feeling and a complete loss of awareness that feels like a very deep sleep.
A doctor who specializes in giving medicines or other agents to prevent or relieve pain during surgery or other procedures being done in the hospital.
Blood vessel formation. Tumor angiogenesis is the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. This is caused by the release of chemicals by the tumor.
A substance that may prevent the formation of blood vessels. In anticancer therapy, an angiogenesis inhibitor may prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.
In medicine, a substance that stops the action or effect of another substance. For example, a medicine that blocks the stimulating effect of estrogen on a tumor cell is called an estrogen receptor antagonist.
A type of antibiotic that comes from certain types of Streptomyces bacteria. Anthracyclines are used to treat many types of cancer by damaging the DNA in cancer cells, causing them to die. Daunorubicin, doxorubicin, and epirubicin are anthracyclines.
A vaccine made of antibodies that see other antibodies as the antigen and bind to it. Anti-idiotype vaccines can stimulate the body to produce antibodies against tumor cells.
Having to do with reducing inflammation. A common anti-inflammatory medicine is ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Anti-inflammatory compounds also exist in some foods.
A medicine used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as feelings of fear, dread, uneasiness and muscle tightness, which may contribute to pain associated with breast cancer. Most antianxiety medicines block the action of certain chemicals in the nervous system. Also called anxiolytic and anxiolytic agent. Examples of anti-anxiety medicines are diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan).
Treatment with an antibody, a substance that can directly kill specific tumor cells or stimulate the immune system to kill tumor cells.
antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity
A type of immune reaction in which a target cell or microbe is coated with antibodies and killed by certain types of white blood cells. The white blood cells bind to the antibodies and release substances that kill the target cells or microbes. Medicines used in breast cancer treatment, such as paclitaxel, enhance this process.
Describes a drug or effect that works against cachexia, the loss of body weight and muscle mass caused by illnesses such as cancer.
A type of anticancer drug that blocks cell growth by interfering with DNA, the genetic material in cells. Also called antineoplastic antibiotic and antitumor antibiotic.
Treatment to stop or prevent cancer.
A medicine or other substance used to prevent or stop seizures or convulsions. Also called antiepileptic. Examples of anticonvulsants are gabapentin (Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax). Anticonvulsants are sometimes used to treat nerve pain in women with breast cancer.
A medicine used manage symptoms of depression and anxiety that may be caused by some breast cancer treatments. Some antidepressants - paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), and bupropion (Wellbutrin) - may interact with breast cancer treatments like tamoxifen, prescribed to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning in those with hormone-positive cancers.
A medicine that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.
A substance that keeps cells from making or using estrogen, the female sex hormone. Antiestrogens may stop some cancer cells from growing and are used to prevent and treat breast cancer. An antiestrogen is a type of hormone antagonist. Also called estrogen blocker.
A substance that blocks the activity of folic acid. Antifolates are used to treat breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer. Also called folate antagonist.
antigen-presenting cell vaccine
A vaccine made of antigens and antigen-presenting cells (APCs). APCs boost an immune response by presenting antigens on their surfaces to other cells of the immune system. Also called APC vaccine. APC vaccines are being tested for treatment of breast cancer.
Treatment with medicine, surgery, or radiation that blocks the production or action of a hormone. Antihormone therapy may be used in cancer treatment because certain hormones stimulate the growth of some types of tumors.
A medicine similar to natural chemicals in a healthy biochemical reaction in cells, but different enough to interfere with the normal division and functions of cells.
A type of medicine used to treat cancer that blocks cell growth by stopping mitosis (cell division). Also called mitotic inhibitor.
Blocking the formation of neoplasms (growths that may become cancer).
Having to do with stopping abnormal cell growth that can lead to cancer.
Feelings of fear, dread and uneasiness that may occur as a reaction to stress. A person with anxiety may sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. Extreme anxiety that happens often over time may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
A medicine used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as feelings of fear, dread, uneasiness and muscle tightness, which may occur as a reaction to stress. Most anxiolytics block the action of certain chemicals in the nervous system. Also called antianxiety agent and anxiolytic agent.
A medicine used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment. It is a type of serotonin receptor antagonist and a type of antiemetic. Also called dolasetron mesylate.
A registered nurse who has additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. APNs are licensed at the state level and certified by national nursing organizations. In cancer care, an APN may manage the primary care of individuals and families, based on a practice agreement with a doctor. Also called advanced practice nurse, NP, and nurse practitioner.
A type of gland that is found in the skin, breast, eyelid and ear. Apocrine glands in the breast secrete fat droplets into breast milk.
A type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell leads to its death. This is the body's healthy way of getting rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer cells. Also called programmed cell death.
A medicine used together with other medicines to prevent and control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment and that occurs after surgery. It is a type of antiemetic and a type of substance P/neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist. Also called Emend.
The area of darker color that surrounds the nipple. Areola color ranges from light pink to dark brown.
Treatment group within a clinical trial.
Brand name for exemestane. A medicine used to treat advanced breast cancer and to prevent recurrent breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have already been treated with tamoxifen. Aromasin causes a decrease in the amount of estrogen made by the body. It is a type of aromatase inhibitor.
A medicine that prevents the formation of estradiol, a form of estrogen, the 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.
A type of complementary medicine that uses plant oils that give off strong pleasant aromas (smells) to promote relaxation, a sense of well-being and healing.
Joint pain. Can be caused by some medicines used to treat breast cancer, such as aromatase inhibitors.
Abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen that may cause swelling. In late-stage cancer, tumor cells may be found in the fluid in the abdomen. Malignant ascites can form as a result of cancer of the breast, as well as other cancers.
Fluid withdrawn from a lump, often a cyst, or from a nipple.
In medical practice, the removal of fluid or tissue through a needle.
A lab test to find and measure the amount of a specific substance.
Weakness; lack of energy and strength.
Having no signs or symptoms of disease.
Having the ability to focus on one task or topic. Some women affected by breast cancer report difficulty with tasks requiring attention during and following breast cancer treatment.
State of being not typical or normal. In medicine, atypia is an abnormality in cells in tissue.
atypical ductal hyperplasia
A benign (not cancerous) condition in which there are more cells than normal in the lining of breast ducts and the cells look abnormal under a microscope. Having atypical ductal hyperplasia increases the risk of breast cancer. Also called ADH and atypical ductal breast hyperplasia.
A benign (not cancerous) condition in which cells look abnormal under a microscope and are increased in number.
atypical lobular hyperplasia
A benign (not cancerous) condition in which there are more cells than normal in the breast lobules and the cells look abnormal under a microscope. Having atypical lobular hyperplasia increases the risk of breast cancer. Also called ALH and atypical lobular breast hyperplasia.
The act of staying away from people, places, and thoughts that may cause anxiety, pain, or unpleasant feelings. Some types of cancer-related avoidance include refusing to accept a cancer diagnosis or to get treatment, and using alcohol or other drugs to forget about having cancer, all of which are harmful.
axillary lymph node
A lymph node in the armpit region that drains lymph from the breast and nearby areas.
axillary lymph node dissection
Surgery to remove lymph nodes found in the armpit region. Also called axillary dissection.