Words to Know

time to progression

A measure of time after a disease is diagnosed (or treated) until the disease starts to get worse.


A disorder in which a person hears noises such as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or the sound of a pulse, when no outside sound is causing them. Tinnitus may have many different causes, and may be a symptom of another disease or condition. It may be caused by certain tumors and anticancer medicines.

tissue flap reconstruction

A type of breast reconstruction in which a flap of tissue is surgically moved from another area of the body to the chest, and formed into a new breast mound. The different types of tissue flap surgery are named for the area of the body they are taken from: TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap; Latissimus dorsi (LD) flap; and DIEP (deep inferior epigastric artery perforator) flap.


A group or layer of cells that work together to perform a specific function.

TNM staging system

Also called AJCC staging system. A system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) that uses 'TNM' to describe the extent of cancer in a individual's body. 'T' describes the size of the tumor and whether it has invaded nearby tissue. 'N' describes whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and 'M' describes whether cancer has metastasized (spread to distant parts of the body). The TNM staging system is used to describe most types of cancer, including breast cancer.


A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine.


Also called helical tomotherapy. A therapy that is being studied in the treatment of breast cancer in which radiation is aimed at a tumor from many different directions. The individual lays on a table and is moved through a donut-shaped machine. The radiation source in the machine rotates around the individual in a spiral pattern. Before radiation, a 3-dimensional (3-D) image of the tumor is taken. This helps doctors find the highest dose of radiation that can be used to kill tumor cells while causing less damage to nearby tissue. Tomotherapy is a type of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

topical chemotherapy

Treatment with anticancer medicines in a lotion or cream applied to the skin.


On the surface of the body.

topoisomerase inhibitor

A substance that blocks topoisomerases (enzymes that break and rejoin DNA strands and are needed for cells to divide and grow). Blocking these enzymes may kill cancer cells. Certain topoisomerase inhibitors are being studied in the treatment of cancer.

total estrogen blockade

Therapy used to eliminate estrogen in the body. This may be done with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these procedures.

total mastectomy

Removal of the breast. Also called simple mastectomy.

total nodal irradiation

Radiation therapy to the mantle field, the spleen, the lymph nodes in the upper abdomen and the lymph nodes in the pelvic area.

total parenteral nutrition

Also called hyperalimentation, parenteral nutrition, TPN. A form of nutrition that is delivered into a vein. Total parenteral nutrition does not use the digestive system. It may be given to people who are unable to absorb nutrients through the intestinal tract because of vomiting that won't stop, severe diarrhea or intestinal disease. It may also be given to those undergoing high-dose chemotherapy or radiation and bone marrow transplantation. It is possible to give all of the protein, calories, vitamins and minerals a person needs using total parenteral nutrition.


The extent to which something is poisonous or harmful.


Having to do with poison or something harmful to the body. Toxic substances usually cause unwanted side effects.


A substance (such as a radioisotope) used in imaging procedures.

traditional acupuncture

Also called five element acupuncture. An ancient form of acupuncture based on the principle that there are five universal elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) that affect a person's emotions, personality, health and response to treatment. Each person is affected by one element more than the others.


A medicine that calms and soothes, and reduces stress and tension. Tranquilizers are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Examples of pharmaceutical tranquilizers are Alprazolam (brand names, Xanax and Niravam) and lorazepam (brand name, Ativan).


Absorbed through the unbroken skin.