Glossary

adjuvant chemotherapy – treatment of cancer with drugs to aid or assist another treatment.

atypical hyperplasia – the milk ducts contain increased numbers of abnormal cells.

benign – a tumour that is not malignant, not cancerous, and won’t spread to another part of your body.

biopsy – when the specialists remove a small amount of cells or tissue from your body, so that it can then be examined under a microscope.

bone scan – a picture of the bones that can show cancers, other abnormalities such as arthritis, and infection. When a mildly radioactive substance is injected, cancerous areas in the bone pick up more of the substance than normal bone.

cells – the ‘building blocks’ of the body. A human is made of millions of cells, which are adapted for different functions. Cells are able to reproduce themselves exactly, unless they are abnormal or damaged, as are cancer cells.

CT scan – a scan done with X-rays to create a detailed image of the body and its organs.

ducts – a small tube in the body. In the breast, the milk ducts carry milk from the milk sacs to the nipple.

genes – a biological unit of DNA able to pass on a single characteristic from parent to offspring. Genes are found in every cell of the body.

glands – an organ or group of organs that make certain fluids.

hormone receptors – indicators on the surface of some cancer cells that suggest the cancer depends on hormones to help it grow, and it may thus respond to hormone treatment.

hormone receptor tests – laboratory tests that are done on a sample of tissue, to find out whether the cancer is likely to respond to hormone treatment. Hormone blood tests are also done to see if women are post-menopausal.

lymph glands or nodes – small kidney bean-shaped sacs scattered along the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid to remove bacteria and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells. There are lymph nodes throughout your body, including in your abdomen, neck, armpit, and groin.

lymphoedema – swelling caused by a build-up of lymph in the tissues. It is caused by an obstruction of the lymph flow usually following surgery or other cancer treatment, such as radiation treatment.

malignant – a tumour that is cancerous and likely to spread if it is not treated.

mammogram – an X-ray of the breast that can be used to examine a breast lump. Mammograms are also used for women without any breast changes because they may detect a breast cancer before a lump can be felt.

mastectomy – the surgical removal of the breast.

metastasis (plural = metastases) – a cancer that has grown in a different part of the body because of spread of cancer cells from the original site. For example, someone with breast cancer may have metastases in their bones–also called secondary cancer.

milk sacs – the glands in a woman that produce milk. Each breast consists of a number of lobes (divisions) which contain milk sacs where the milk is produced.

MRI – a scan that uses magnetic resonance to detect abnormalities in the breasts, or of other body parts.

neo-adjuvant chemotherapy – chemotherapy given before surgery to improve the effectiveness of the treatment.

ovaries – a woman has two ovaries, which produce the female sex hormone oestrogen and, once a month, release an egg (ovum).

partial breast irradiation – irradiation technique under development covering the site of the (removed) tumour and margin of normal breast; given by a number of techniques.

primary – a malignant tumour starts in one site of the body where it is known as the primary tumour.

prosthesis – an artificial substitute for a missing part of the body such as a breast. It may help with balance and improve appearance.

recurrence – when a disease comes back again after what seemed to be a cure. This may be a local recurrence in the original site, or be distant metastases.

secondary – the same as metastasis.

sentinel node – this is the first lymph node to receive lymphatic drainage (and, potentially, cancer cells) from a tumour.

stereotactic core biopsy – a technique that uses three-dimensional X-ray to pinpoint a specific target area. It is used in conjunction with needle biopsy on non-palpable breast abnormalities.

tumour – a swelling or lump. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

ultrasound – sound waves of a very high frequency used to examine structures within the body.