Breast Cancer Terms

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There are currently 10 names in this directory beginning with the letter M.
Having the ability to invade into nearby tissue and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

A x-ray of the breast using a device that compresses and flattens it. There are two basic mammogram tests — screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. A screening mammogram is the more basic exam, and is recommended on an annual basis after age 40, even if there are no symptoms related to the breast. A diagnostic test is used if there is some symptom, such as a lump, or localized tenderness, or nipple discharge, or if there was some vague abnormality seen on a screening mammogram. This test is a bit more involved, and may lead to other studies such as ultrasound. When a “diagnostic mammogram” is done, the radiologist usually interprets the studies right away, and you will likely receive a specific answer about the results before you leave the facility. For screening mammograms, the result is likely to be delayed a day or two, and the result will be available through your physician.

There is an entire page devoted to this relatively new way to give radiation therapy for breast cancer after lumpectomy, such that the treatment is given in just 5 days, two treatments each day.

In the treatment of breast cancer, the surgical procedure to remove the cancer in the breast should remove the entire lump of cancer and some normal breast tissue all around. This is not always as easy as it might seem, because sometimes there are microscopic roots or tendrils extending outward from the lump that is felt. The evidence of cancer cells on the outside of the removed tissue might only be seen after the pathologist has completed the microscopic exam a few days later. If cancer cells are seen on the outer surface of the tissue that’s been removed, this is called a “positive margin”. Although there are some exceptions, in most cases if there is a positive margin, another operation may be necessary to be certain no cancer remains in the breast, and so, to have an acceptably low risk for any cancer coming back in the breast in the future.

A general term for removal of the breast, usually to remove cancerous tissue. Drainage tubes are left in the surgical incision for a few days after the operation; these are removed when drainage has decreased sufficiently. After the mastectomy, reconstructive surgery may be performed to restore a more normal appearance. Some patients choose to avoid reconstructive surgery, and wear special undergarments instead.
The very first treatment that was found to treat breast cancer was a “radical mastectomy”, in the late 1800’s. This procedure removed not only the entire breast, but also the skin, and the muscles of the chest wall, and all the lymph nodes under the arm and clavicle. We no longer utilize this radical operation when a mastectomy is done. Sometimes we can even leave essentially the entire skin “envelope” of the breast, and then “re-fill” the skin envelope with whatever is being used for the breast reconstruction. This “skin-sparing” mastectomy typically provides a much more natural breast reconstruction.
The term “partial mastectomy” might also be used, which is not the same as a “mastectomy”. This term, partial mastectomy, is often used interchangeably for lumpectomy.

The time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods permanently stop; it is also called the “change of life.” Menopause is the opposite of the menarche.

  1. The process by which cancer spreads from the place at which it first arose as a primary tumor to distant locations in the body. Cancer cells can break away from the cancer lump where it originated, and travel by floating along in the blood stream, or along the lymphatic vessels.
  2. The cancer resulting from the spread of the primary tumor. For example, someone with breast cancer may have a metastasis in their brain.

The spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and cause secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original cancer.

Pertaining to a single clone of cells, a single cell and the progeny of that cell. As opposed to polyclonal.

Monoclonal Antibody
An antibody produced by a single clone of cells (specifically, a single clone of hybridoma cells) and therefore a single pure homogeneous type of antibody. Monoclonal antibodies can be made in large amounts in the laboratory and are a cornerstone of immunology. The term “monoclonal” pertains to a single clone of cells, a single cell and the progeny of that cell.