Words to Know

BAK gel

Also called baclofen/amitriptyline/ketamine gel. A substance being studied in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy (pain, numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness in the hands or feet) caused by chemotherapy. It contains three medicines, baclofen, amitriptyline, and ketamine, which relax muscles by blocking nerve receptors. The gel is applied to the skin of affected areas. It is a type of analgesic.

balloon catheter radiation

Also called MammoSite. A system used to deliver internal radiation therapy to the site of the breast cancer after surgery to remove the tumor. Balloon catheter radiation targets only the part of the breast where the cancer was found. After a lumpectomy, a small balloon on the end of a catheter (a 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 5 days and removed each time. Once treatment has ended, the catheter and balloon are removed. Balloon catheter radiation is a type of intracavitary brachytherapy and partial breast irradiation therapy (PBRT).


An initial measurement taken at an early point in time to represent a beginning condition. It is used as a point of comparison to look for changes over time. For example, the size of a tumor will be measured before treatment (baseline) and then afterward to see if the treatment had an effect.

behavior modification

A technique used to help people change the way they react to certain triggers in the environment that cause a negative reaction. In breast cancer treatment, behavior modification may be used to help women with breast cancer who have become nauseous during previous cancer treatments cope with nausea they feel when they enter the therapy room to begin a new round of treatment.

best practice

In medicine, treatment that experts agree is appropriate, accepted and widely used. Healthcare providers are obligated to provide best practice treatments. Also called standard of care and standard therapy.


Also called Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System. A method used by radiologists to interpret and report the results of mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs in a standardized manner.

Biafine cream

A medicine put on the skin to help repair damaged skin. It may be used to treat the redness, burning and peeling caused by radiation therapy.


In a scientific research study or clinical trial, a flaw in the study design or the method of collecting or interpreting information. Biases can lead to incorrect conclusions about what the study or clinical trial showed.

bilateral breast cancer

Cancer that occurs in both breasts.


Affecting both the right and left sides of the body. A bilateral mastectomy is surgery to remove both the right and left breast.

bilateral prophylactic mastectomy

A preventative (prophylactic) surgery to remove both breasts, in order to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

Surgery to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. This surgery is sometimes recommended to women with a higher cancer risk, as a preventative measure.


A method of learning to voluntarily control certain body functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure and muscle tension with the help of a special machine. This method can help control pain.


A substance that is made from a living organism or its products and is used to help prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer and other diseases. Biologics include antibodies, interleukins and vaccines.


The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

biopsy specimen

Tissue removed from the body and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.


Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections and other diseases. Also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Monoclonal antibodies, growth factors and vaccines are used in biotherapy and may have a direct antitumor effect.


A medicine used to treat hypercalcemia (abnormally high blood calcium) and bone pain caused by some types of cancer. Bisphosphonates inhibit a type of bone cell that breaks down bone.

bisphosphonate-associated osteonecrosis

The necrosis (death) of bone tissue caused by treatment with a bisphosphonate (a medicine or substance used to treat osteoporosis, bone pain caused by some types of cancer, and high blood calcium). It commonly occurs in the jaw bones. There may be pain, swelling and infection in the areas of necrosis.

blinded study

A type of study in which the participants (single-blinded) or the participants and their doctors (double-blinded) do not know which medicine or treatment is being given. The opposite of a blinded study is an open-label study.