Words to Know
magnetic resonance imaging
Also called MRI, NMRI and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the breast. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. Magnetic resonance imaging creates higher quality images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or X-ray. It is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints and the inside of bones.
A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using medicines, radiation or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, orthodox medicine and Western medicine.
Treatment that is given to help keep breast cancer from coming back after it has disappeared following initial therapy. It may include treatment with medicines, vaccines or antibodies that kill cancer cells, and it may be given for a long time. Tamoxifen and exemestane (brand name, Aromasin) are two examples of maintenance therapy for preventing breast cancer recurrence.
A condition caused by not getting enough calories or the right amount of key nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, needed for good health. Malnutrition may occur when there is a lack of nutrients in the diet, or when the body cannot absorb nutrients from food. Cancer and cancer treatment may cause malnutrition.
Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast changes, and fibrocystic breast disease. A common condition marked by benign (noncancerous) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples and itching. Symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause.
Also called balloon catheter radiation. A system used to deliver internal radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery, in order to remove the cancer. MammoSite targets only the part of the breast where the cancer was found. After an individual has had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, a small balloon on the end of a catheter (thin tube) is inserted into the empty space left by the surgery. The balloon is then filled with liquid and left in place. Using the catheter, radioactive seeds are put into the balloon twice a day for five days and removed each time. Once treatment has ended, the catheter and balloon are removed. MammoSite is a type of intracavitary brachytherapy and partial breast irradiation therapy (PBRT).
The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative, or clean, when the pathologist finds no breast cancer cells within it, which suggests that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive, or involved, when the pathologist finds cancer cells within it, which suggests that all of the cancer has not been removed.
A treatment in which the soft tissues of the body are kneaded, rubbed, tapped and stroked. Massage therapy may help people relax, relieve stress and pain, lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Therapeutic massage is being studied in the treatment of cancer symptoms such as pain and depression.
A painful condition in which breast tissue is inflamed. It is usually caused by an infection and is most often seen in nursing mothers. The symptoms of mastitis are similar to the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. Those symptoms include breast enlargement (on one side only) and pain, enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, flu-like symptoms, itching, lump, nipple discharge, redness and swelling. Fever is a symptom of mastitis that is not common to inflammatory breast cancer.
maximum tolerated dose
Also called MTD. The highest dose of a medicine or treatment possible that does not unacceptable side effects. The maximum tolerated dose is determined in clinical trials by testing increasingly higher doses on different groups of people, until the highest dose with acceptable side effects is found.
A health insurance program for people who cannot afford regular medical care. The program is run by U.S. federal, state, and local governments. People who receive Medicaid may have to pay a small amount for the services they get. Breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatments are listed as an option for coverage through Medicare.
medical nutrition therapy
Also called nutrition therapy. Treatment based on nutrition. It includes checking a person's nutrition status and giving the right foods or nutrients to treat conditions such as side effects caused by breast cancer treatment. Therapy may involve simple changes in a person's diet, or feeding someone intravenously or through a tube. Medical nutrition therapy may help individuals recover more quickly and spend less time in the hospital.
A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has breast cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.
A serious problem that may occur in cancer in which cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor to the meninges, thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord. It can happen in many types of cancer, but is the most common in melanoma, breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancer. The cancer may cause the meninges to be inflamed. Also called carcinomatous meningitis, leptomeningeal carcinoma, leptomeningeal metastasis, meningeal carcinomatosis and neoplastic meningitis.
The time of life when a woman's ovaries stop producing hormones and her menstrual periods stop. Natural menopause usually occurs around age 50. A woman is said to be in menopause when she hasn't had a period for 12 months in a row. Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, vaginal dryness, trouble concentrating and infertility.
Small numbers of cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor to other parts of the body, in numbers too small to be picked up on mammogram, CT or MRI scan. Micrometastasis can be detected with a sentinel node biopsy - a surgical procedure in which the sentinel lymph node - the lymph node located closest to the primary tumor - is removed and examined under a microscope. In breast cancer, the axillary lymph nodes, underneath the armpits, are examined to detect whether micrometastasis has occurred.
Also called scintimammography, or sestamibi breast imaging. A type of breast imaging test that is used to detect cancer cells in the breasts of some women who have had abnormal mammograms, or who have dense breast tissue. It is not used for screening or in place of a mammogram. In this test, a woman receives an injection of a small amount of a radioactive substance called technetium 99, which is taken up by cancer cells, and a gamma camera is used to take pictures of the breasts.
Also called biomarker and signature molecule. A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A molecular marker may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition.
A branch of medicine that develops ways to diagnose and treat disease by understanding the way genes, proteins, and other cellular molecules work. Molecular medicine is based on research that shows how certain genes, molecules and cellular functions may become abnormal in diseases such as breast cancer.
A type of protein made in the lab that can bind to substances in the body, including tumor cells. There are many kinds of monoclonal antibodies. Each monoclonal antibody is made to find one substance. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone or to carry medicines, toxins, or radioactive materials directly to a tumor.
The state of being mortal (destined to die). Mortality also refers to the death rate, or the number of deaths in a certain group of people in a certain period of time. Mortality may be reported for people who have a certain disease, live in one area of the country, or who are of a certain gender, age or ethnic group.
A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the breast. These pictures can show the difference between healthy and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or X-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
A noninvasive imaging method that provides information about the activity of cells. It is used along with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which provides information about the shape and size of the tumor. Also called 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.
Also called maximum tolerated dose. The highest dose of a medicine or treatment possible that does not trigger unacceptable side effects. The MTD is determined in clinical trials by testing increasing doses on different groups of people until the highest dose with acceptable side effects is found.
In medicine, a term used to describe a treatment planning approach or team that includes a number of doctors and other healthcare professionals who are experts in different specialties (disciplines). In cancer treatment, the primary disciplines are medical oncology (treatment with medicines), surgical oncology (treatment with surgery), and radiation oncology (treatment with radiation).
Also called tumor board review. A treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties (disciplines) review and discuss the medical condition and treatment options for an individual. In breast cancer treatment, a multidisciplinary opinion may include that of a medical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with medicines), a surgical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with surgery), and a radiation oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with radiation).
A person who has a mutated (changed) copy of a gene. This change may cause a disease in that person or in his or her children. The BRCA1 (breast cancer 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer 2) genes, which increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancers, are an example of a mutation that could be carried from one generation to the next.
Any change in the DNA of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to breast cancer or other diseases.