Breast Cancer Terms

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There are currently 5 names in this directory beginning with the letter C.
Another word for cancer. For example, carcinoma can arise in the breast , colon, liver, lung, prostate, and stomach. Cancer that arises in the breast has specific treatment that is different from cancer that arises in another organ such as the colon or the lung. Nearly all cancers can be treated with the various modalities of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, though the specific treatment combinations depend not only on the location of the cancer, but also on the stage of the cancer, the age of the patient, and other characteristics of the tumor itself. In breast cancer, we are learning ways to categorize cancers in ways that allow us to provide individualized treatment plans, based on specific “targets”, or weaknesses, for which we have specific medications that directly attack those targets.

Carcinoma in situ
Cancer that involves only the place in which it began and that has not spread. Carcinoma in situ is an early-stage tumor. It is like having cancer “seeds” that, although they have the potential to sprout into a full-fledged invasive cancer, they have not yet done so. Finding cancer in this earliest stage is really the best time to find it, because the treatment at this point essentially cures the cancer. Following a curative surgical excision, other treatments may be recommended, to decrease the possibility of having other cancer seeds develop and grow. See also DCIS. NOTE: This term can be confusing because it is used in two different situations, which are not the same. In the case of “lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)”, this does not even mean that you have “cancer seeds”, but only a predisposition to developing cancer in the future. Years ago, this finding WAS considered an early form of cancer, but we now know better.

  1. In the original sense, a chemical that binds to and specifically kills microbes or tumor cells. The term chemotherapy was coined in this regard by Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915).
  2. In oncology, drug therapy for cancer. Also called “chemo” for short. Chemotherapy is usually given into the veins, so that it travels throughout the entire body. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as “systemic” therapy, because it can have an effect on cancer cells that might have spread to anywhere in the body. Most chemotherapy agents derive their effect on cancer cells by inhibiting the division of cells in one way or another. Since cancer cells are dividing more rapidly than most any other cells in the body, the effects on the cancer cells are greater than the effects on the normal cells. But rapidly dividing normal cells, such as hair cells, intestinal lining cells, and bone marrow cells (where new blood cells are produced) can also be affected.

Clinical trials
Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.

A cyst is an abnormal, closed sac-like structure within the breast that contains a liquid, or semisolid substance. Cysts in the breast are almost always benign, but can mimic a cancer. They are often drained with a needle in the office, as part of the evaluation of a new breast lump, or abnormal mammogram.