Words to Know

selective estrogen receptor modulator

Also called SERM. A medicine that acts like estrogen on some tissues but blocks the effect of estrogen on other tissues. Tamoxifen and raloxifene (brand name, Evista) are selective estrogen receptor modulators.

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

Also called SSRI. A type of medicine used to treat depression. SSRIs slow the process by which serotonin (a substance that nerves use to send messages to one another) is reused by nerve cells that make it. This increases the amount of serotonin available for stimulating other nerves. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed during breast cancer treatment.

sentinel lymph node biopsy

Surgery and removal of the first lymph nodes in the armpit where breast cancer is likely to travel. Surgeons identify the sentinel lymph nodes by injecting a radioactive substance, blue dye, or both near the breast tumor. The surgeon then uses a probe to find the sentinel lymph node or nodes containing the radioactive substance, or looks for lymph nodes that are stained with dye. The surgeon then removes the sentinel node or nodes to check for the presence of cancer cells.

sentinel lymph node mapping

The use of dyes and radioactive substances to identify the first lymph nodes to which breast cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. Cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel nodes before spreading to other lymph nodes and other places in the body.

sentinel lymph node

The first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. When cancer spreads, the cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to other lymph nodes. The sentinel lymph nodes for breast cancer are usually located under the armpits.


The presence of bacteria or their toxins in the blood or tissues that may lead to fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion and disorientation. People affected with cancer, or those with weakened immune systems, are at an increased risk for sepsis, which is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. A healthcare professional can diagnose sepsis by testing bodily fluids for infectious agents. Additional tests, such as chest X-ray and CT scan, can help locate the site of the infection.

sequential AC/Taxol-Trastuzumab regimen

Also called AC-T-T, AC-T-T regimen, AC-TH regimen. An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used to treat breast cancer. It includes doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol) and trastuzumab (Herceptin).

sequential treatment

One treatment after the other.


Selective estrogen receptor modulator. A medicine that acts like estrogen on some tissues but blocks the effect of estrogen on other tissues. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are SERMs.


Also called Zoloft. A medicine used to treat depression. It is a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed after a breast cancer diagnosis.


Also called nefazodone. A medicine used to treat depression. It belongs to the family of medicines called antidepressant agents.

sestamibi breast imaging

Also called Miraluma test, scintimammography. 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.


A person's behaviors, desires, and attitudes related to sex and physical intimacy with others. Sexuality can be impacted by breast cancer treatment, due to premature menopause or the fatigue and depression conditions sometimes triggered by breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Body image issues can occur as a result of surgery, side effects of breast cancer treatment, and a change in appearance due to hair loss. A change in body confidence can impact sexuality. Healthcare professionals can provide resources to help address sexuality issues related to breast cancer.


A person's brother or sister who has the same parents.

side effect

A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some common side effects of breast cancer treatment are fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.


A synthetic gel that is used as an outer coating on breast implants and as the inside filling of some implants. Silcone-gel-filled breast implants are one of two options approved in the United States - saline-filled implants are also available. Both types of implants have an outer shell made of silicone.

simple mastectomy

Removal of the breast, but not the axillary lymph nodes. Also called total mastectomy.


A process used to plan radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery so that the target area is precisely located and marked.

Single-agent therapy

A type of clinical trial in which only the doctor knows whether an individual is taking the standard treatment or the new treatment being tested. This helps prevent bias in treatment studies.

sleep disorder

A disturbance of normal sleep patterns. There are a number of sleep disorders that include trouble falling asleep, nightmares, sleepwalking, and sleep apnea (problems with breathing that lead to loud snoring). Poor sleep may also be caused by diseases such as heart disease, lung disease or nerve disorders. It can also be triggered by the emotional impact of a breast cancer diagnosis, or side effects of breast cancer treatment. Multiple studies are examining the sleep disturbances in those being treated for breast cancer, and those who have completed treatment.