Breast Cancer Terms

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There are currently 8 names in this directory beginning with the letter A.
Not normal. Deviating from the usual structure, position, condition, or behavior. In referring to a growth, abnormal may sometimes mean that it is cancerous or premalignant (likely to become cancer).

The Latin “adjuvans” means to help, particularly to reach a goal.

Adjuvant therapy
Treatment that is given in addition to the primary (initial) treatment. For breast cancer, surgery is usually considered the “primary” treatment, to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy, when given, would be called adjuvant therapy. If a cancer has progressed to a stage where it cannot be surgically removed, then chemotherapy might itself be the primary treatment.

Loss of feeling or awareness. A general anesthetic puts the person to sleep, using either gases that are breathed into the lungs, or with medicines given in the vein. A “local” anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body such as the breast without affecting consciousness. Some procedures on the breast are done using a combination of some sedating medications, and local anesthesia. This form of anesthesia is often called “twilight sleep”, or “monitored anesthesia care” (MAC). People who have undergone colonoscopy would typically have experienced this form of anesthesia; in most cases, there is no memory of the experience, even though you are not completely asleep.

The small darkened area around the nipple of the breast.

Not typical, not usual, not normal, abnormal. Atypical is often used to refer to the appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.

Atypical ductal hyperplasia
A benign but abnormal type of cell growth in breast tissue, in which the cells lining the breast ducts become both heaped up on one another, and irregular in size and shape. Although this is not cancer, we know that in women who have such findings as seen on a biopsy, the risk for developing cancer in the future is higher. In fact, if this finding is seen on a biopsy done by just a needle, it is usually recommended that a larger (surgical) biopsy be done promptly, to be sure there is no cancer nearby.

Pertaining to the cavity beneath the junction of the arm and the body, better known as the armpit. This is where the lymph nodes that “drain” the breast tissue are, and in women with invasive breast cancer, it is usually recommended to sample some of these nodes to check for the possibility of spread beyond the breast itself. This information is used to determine the stage of the cancer.