Glossary of Terms
Energy released in the form of particle or electromagnetic waves. Common sources of radiation include radon gas, cosmic rays from outer space, medical X-rays, and energy given off by a radioisotope (unstable form of a chemical element that releases radiation as it breaks down and becomes more stable).
A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material - sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters - is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called brachytherapy, implant radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy.
A skin condition that is a common side effect of radiation therapy. The affected skin becomes painful, red, itchy and blistered. A method to prevent radiation dermatitis is being studied.
The formation of scar tissue as a result of radiation therapy for the treatment of breast cancer.
The death of healthy tissue caused by radiation therapy. Radiation necrosis is a side effect of radiation therapy given to kill cancer cells, and can occur after cancer treatment has ended.
A health professional who specializes in caring for people who are receiving radiation therapy for the treatment of breast cancer.
A doctor who specializes in using radiation therapy for the treatment of breast cancer.
A person who makes sure that the radiation machine delivers the right amount of radiation to the correct site in the body. The physicist works with the radiation oncologist to choose the treatment schedule and dose that has the best chance of killing the most breast cancer cells.
A type of external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the individual in treatment, and precisely give a single large dose of radiation to the tumor. It is used to treat brain tumors caused by metastasis and other brain disorders that cannot be treated by regular surgery. Also called radiosurgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotaxic radiosurgery.
A healthcare professional who gives radiation treatment.
Also called irradiation and radiotherapy. The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill breast cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body.
radical lymph node dissection
A surgical procedure to remove most or all of the lymph nodes located in the underarm area (axillary area) that drain lymph from the area around a breast tumor. The lymph nodes are then examined under a microscope by a pathologist to see if breast cancer cells have spread to them.
Also called Halsted radical mastectomy. Surgery for breast cancer in which the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed. For many years, this was the breast cancer operation used most often, but it is used rarely now. Doctors consider radical mastectomy only when the tumor has spread to the chest muscles.
Giving off radiation.
Also called radiopharmaceutical. A medicine that contains a radioactive substance and is used in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. It can also be used for pain management of bone cancer metastases.
A small, radioactive pellet that is placed in or near a breast tumor. Cancer cells are killed by the energy given off as the radioactive material breaks down and becomes more stable.
Also called radionuclide. An unstable form of a chemical element that releases radiation as it breaks down and becomes more stable. Radioisotopes can be used in imaging tests or as a treatment for breast cancer.
A test that uses radiation or other imaging procedures to find signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities in the body: for example, chest X-ray or mammogram.
A doctor who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are produced with X-rays, sound waves, or other types of energy.
The use of radiation (such as X-rays) or other imaging technologies (such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose or treat disease.
Also called radioisotope. An unstable form of a chemical element that releases radiation as it breaks down and becomes more stable. Radioisotopes can be used in imaging tests or as a treatment for breast cancer.
Also called scintigraphy. A procedure that produces pictures (scans) of structures inside the body, including areas where there are breast cancer cells. Radionuclide scanning is used to diagnose, stage and monitor disease. A small amount of a radioactive chemical (radionuclide) is injected into a vein or swallowed. Different radionuclides travel through the blood to different organs. A machine with a special camera moves over the person lying on a table and detects the type of radiation given off by the radionuclides. A computer forms an image of the areas where the radionuclide builds up. These areas may contain cancer cells.
Also called radioactive drug. A medicine that contains a radioactive substance and is used in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. It can also be used for pain management of bone cancer metastases (the spreading of breast cancer to the bones).
The use of a medicine that makes breast tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
A medicine that makes tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
A radiation therapy technique that delivers radiation directly to the breast tumor while sparing the healthy tissue. Also called radiation surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotaxic radiosurgery.
Also called irradiation and radiation therapy. The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill breast cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy). Systemic radiotherapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body.
The active ingredient in a medicine used to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at high risk of the disease or who have osteoporosis. It is also used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. It is also being studied in the prevention of breast cancer in certain premenopausal women and in the prevention and treatment of other conditions. Raloxifene blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen in the breast and increases the amount of calcium in bone. It is a type of selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM).
Also called Evista. A medicine used to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at high risk of the disease or who have osteoporosis. It is also used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. It is also being studied in the prevention of breast cancer in certain premenopausal women and in the prevention and treatment of other conditions. Raloxifene hydrochloride blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen in the breast and increases the amount of calcium in bone. It is a type of selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM).
When referring to an experiment or clinical trial, the process by which animal or human subjects are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments or other interventions. Randomization gives each participant an equal chance of being assigned to any of the groups.
randomized clinical trial
A study in which the participants are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments; neither the researchers nor the participants can choose which group. Using chance to assign to groups means that the groups will be similar, and that the treatments they receive can be compared objectively. At the time of the trial, it is not known which treatment is best. It is the participant's choice to be in a randomized trial.
A molecule inside or on the surface of a cell that binds to a specific substance and causes a specific physiologic effect in the cell.
Also called Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors. A standard way to measure how well a person with cancer responds to treatment. It is based on whether tumors shrink, stay the same, or get bigger. To use RECIST, there must be at least one tumor that can be measured on X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans. The types of response a person can have are a complete response (CR), a partial response (PR), progressive disease (PD), and stable disease (SD).
A doctor who can surgically reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body, such as a woman's breast after surgery for breast cancer.
Surgery that is done to reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body changed by previous surgery. There are several types of reconstructive surgeries available after breast cancer treatment surgeries.
A type of therapy that uses activities to help meet the physical and emotional needs of those with an illness or disability and help them develop skills for daily living. These activities include arts and crafts, music, spending time with animals, sports, and drama. Recreational therapy is being studied as a way to relieve distress in those with cancer who are being treated for pain.
Also called recurrent cancer. Breast cancer that has returned after a period of time. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) breast tumor or to another place in the body.
Also called recurrence. Breast cancer that has returned after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) breast tumor or to another place in the body.
In medicine, the act of a doctor sending a person he or she is caring for to another doctor for additional healthcare services. For instance, an oncologist may refer to other specialists during breast cancer treatment. Specialists who work in breast cancer treatment include medical oncologists, radiologists, breast surgeons, surgical oncologists, and radiation oncologists.
A type of massage in which different amounts of pressure are applied to specific points on the feet or hands. These points are believed to match up with certain other parts of the body. Reflexology has been shown to alleviate symptoms of fatigue, nausea, and anxiety in individuals treated with chemotherapy. One study has been completed, evaluating its impact on women with breast cancer, yet more are needed to prove its effectiveness in lessening symptoms of breast cancer treatment.
In medicine, describes a disease or condition that does not respond to treatment.
Also called resistant cancer. Breast cancer that does not respond to treatment. The cancer may be resistant at the beginning of treatment or it may become resistant during treatment.
A treatment plan that specifies the dosage, the schedule and the duration of treatment.
In oncology, describes the body area right around a breast tumor.
A temporary loss of feeling or awareness in a part of the body, such as an arm or a leg, caused by special medicines or other substances called anesthetics. The individual receiving treatment stays awake, but has no feeling in the part of the body treated with the anesthetic.
Refers to cancer that has grown beyond the primary breast tumor to nearby lymph nodes, such as the axillary lymph nodes under the arms, or to nearby organs and tissues.
Treatment with anticancer medicines directed to a specific area of the breast.
regional lymph node
In oncology, a lymph node that drains lymph from the region around a breast tumor.
regional lymph node dissection
A surgical procedure to remove some of the lymph nodes that drain lymph from the area around a breast tumor. The lymph nodes are then examined under a microscope to see if breast cancer cells have spread to them.
A health professional with special training in the use of diet and nutrition to keep the body healthy. A registered dietitian may help the medical team improve the nutritional health of an individual.
A decrease in the size of a breast tumor or in the extent of cancer in the body.
In medicine, a process to restore mental and/or physical abilities lost to injury or disease, in order to function in a healthy or near-healthy way.
A healthcare professional who helps people recover from an illness or injury and return to daily life. Examples of rehabilitation specialists are physical therapists and occupational therapists.
The return of a disease or the signs and symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.
relative survival rate
A specific measurement of survival. For breast cancer, the rate is calculated by adjusting the survival rate to remove all causes of death except breast cancer. The rate is determined at specific time intervals, such as 2 years and 5 years after diagnosis.
A method used to reduce tension and anxiety, and control pain. Relaxation techniques are focused on bringing about a sense of calm, and are effective at reducing stress by slowing the heart rate and breathing rate, lowering blood pressure, and increasing blood flow to major muscles.
A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of breast cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although breast cancer still may be in the body.
remission induction therapy
Initial treatment with anticancer medicines to decrease the signs or symptoms of cancer or make them disappear.
A type of internal radiation treatment in which the radioactive source is removed between treatments. Also called high-dose-rate remote brachytherapy and high-dose-rate remote radiation therapy.
A nurse who acts as a link between a clinical trial's participant, doctor and the trial itself. The research nurse provides information, answers questions, and collects and reports data throughout the trial.
A scientific study of nature that sometimes includes processes involved in health and disease. For example, clinical trials are research studies that involve people. These studies may be related to new ways to screen, prevent, diagnose and treat disease. They may also study certain outcomes and certain groups of people by looking at data collected in the past or future.
Able to be removed by surgery.
Removed by surgery.
Surgery to remove breast tissue, part of the breast, or all of the breast.
Breast cancer cells that remain after attempts to remove the cancer have been made.
Also called refractory cancer. Breast cancer that does not respond to treatment. The cancer may be resistant at the beginning of treatment, or it may become resistant during treatment.
A process in which a substance, such as tissue, is lost by being destroyed and then absorbed by the body.
Temporary care given to a person who is unable to care for himself or herself, so that the usual caregivers can have a break. Respite care may include in-home care, adult daycare, or nursing home care.
In medicine, an improvement related to treatment.
The percent of people whose breast cancer shrinks or disappears after treatment.
retrospective cohort study
Also called historic cohort study. A research study in which the medical records of groups of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic (for example, female nurses who smoke and those who do not smoke) are compared for a particular outcome (such as breast cancer).
Also called case-control study. A study that compares two groups of people: those with the disease or condition under study (cases) and a very similar group of people who do not have the disease or condition (controls). Researchers study the medical and lifestyle histories of the people in each group to learn what factors may be associated with the disease or condition. For example, one group may have been exposed to a particular substance that the other was not.
Something that increases the chance of developing breast cancer. Some examples of risk factors for breast cancer include age, a family history, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, hormones and certain genetic changes.
Also called Adriamycin PFS, Adriamycin RDF, doxorubicin. A medicine used to treat breast cancer. Rubex comes from the bacterium Streptomyces peucetius. It damages DNA and may kill cancer cells. It is a type of anthracycline antitumor antibiotic.