Words to Know


Surgical removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This surgery is sometimes recommended to women at high risk of developing ovarian cancer because of a known BRCA mutation, or to stop the creation of estrogen in the body that fuels the growth of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

salvage therapy

Treatment that is given after the breast cancer has not responded to other treatments.

samarium 153

A radioactive substance used in the treatment of bone cancer and bone metastases (cancers that have spread from the original tumor to the bone). Samarium 153 is a radioactive form of the element samarium. It collects in bone, where it releases radiation that may kill cancer cells. It is a type of radioisotope.


Also called GM-CSF, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. A substance being studied in the treatment of breast cancer. Sargramostim helps make more white blood cells, especially granulocytes, macrophages, and cells that become platelets.


A small, thin knife used for surgery.


In medicine, an instrument that takes pictures of the inside of the body.


A picture of structures inside the body. Scans often used in diagnosing, staging, and monitoring breast cancer include liver scans, bone scans, and computed tomography (CT) or computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans, positron emission tomograhy (PET) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. In liver scanning and bone scanning, radioactive substances that are injected into the bloodstream collect in these organs. A scanner that detects the radiation is used to create pictures. In CT scanning, an X-ray machine linked to a computer is used to produce detailed pictures of organs inside the body. MRI scans use a large magnet connected to a computer to create pictures of areas inside the body.


Also called radionuclide scanning. A procedure that produces pictures (scans) of structures inside the body, including areas where there are cancer cells. Scintigraphy 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 Miraluma test and 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 mammograms with cause for follow-up testing, 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.

sclerosing adenosis

A benign condition in which scar-like tissue is found in a gland, such as the breast lobules. A biopsy may be needed to tell the difference between the unhealthy tissue and a diagnosis of cancer. Women with sclerosing adenosis of the breast may have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

screening mammogram

X-rays of the breasts taken to check for breast cancer in the absence of signs or symptoms. Results from randomized clinical trials and other studies show that screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older should have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years.


Checking for breast cancer when there are no symptoms. Preventative mammograms are an example of screening.

second primary cancer

Refers to a new primary cancer in a person with a history of cancer.

second-line therapy

Treatment that is given when initial treatment (first-line therapy) doesn't work, or stops working.

second-look surgery

Surgery performed after primary treatment to determine whether tumor cells remain.

secondary cancer

A term that is used to describe either a new primary cancer or cancer that has spread from the place in which it started to other parts of the body.


To form and release a substance. In the body, cells secrete substances, such as sweat that cools the body or hormones that act in other parts of the body.


A medicine or substance used to calm a person down, relieve anxiety, or help a person sleep.

segmental mastectomy

Also called partial mastectomy. The removal of cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor. Usually some of the lymph nodes under the arm are also taken out.

selection bias

An error in choosing the individuals or groups to take part in a study. Ideally, the subjects in a study should be very similar to one another and to the larger population from which they are drawn (for example, all individuals with the same disease or condition). Some differences between individuals in a study could invalidate the results.