Breast Health Glossary

a b c d e f g h i l m n o p r s t w
  • ABMT -

    See autologous bone marrow transplant.

  • Acetaldehyde -

    A known carcinogen formed when alcohol is metabolized. It is a toxic substance that can cause mistakes in the DNA.

  • Adipose Tissue -

    Fatty tissue

  • Anatomy -

    The study of the bodily structures and internal organs.

  • Antibiotic -

    Medicines that help stop infections caused from bacteria.

  • Areola -

    The pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.

  • Atrophy -

    Tissue in the body wastes away or breaks down.

  • Axillary -

    Related to the armpit.

  • Benign -

    Not harmful; not cancerous (referring to a cell or mass).

  • Benign -

    Not harmful; not cancerous (referring to a cell or mass).

  • Biomarkers -

    A distinct biochemical, genetic, or molecular characteristic or substance that is an indicator of a particular biological condition or process.

  • Biopsy -

    The removal and examination of tissue from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease.

  • BRCA1 -

    A gene which, when damaged or mutated, can put a person at a greater risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.

  • BRCA2 -

    A gene which, when damaged or mutated, may put a woman at a greater risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. This gene is also thought to raise the risk for breast cancer in men.

  • Chronically -

    In a persistent and recurring way.

  • Colostrum -

    A yellowish liquid, especially rich in immune factors, secreted by the mammary gland of female mammals a few days before and after giving birth.

  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy -

    Therapy that introduces synthetic progesterone and estrogen into the body after it has stopped making its own because of natural or induced menopause. HRT relieves the symptoms of menopause, but may also increase risks for developing breast cancer.

  • Conceive -

    To become pregnant with a child.

  • Cyclically -

    A persistent and recurring way.

  • DNA -

    The part of every cell that carries out genetic information on cell growth, division, and function.

  • Engorge -

    Cause to swell with fluid.

  • Enzyme -

    A substance produced by a living organism which causes a specific biochemical reaction.

  • Epidemiological -

    The study, assessment, and analysis of public health concerns in a given population; the tracking of patterns and effects of diseases.

  • Estrogen -

    A female sex hormone that is primarily produced by the ovaries. Its primary function is to regulate the menstrual cycle and assist in the production of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts. It may even play a role in the production of cancer cells in the breast tissue.

  • False-negative -

    A test result that indicates that a person does not have a disease when the person does have that disease.

  • False-positive -

    A test result that indicates that a person has a disease when the person does not have that disease.

  • Gene -

    A sequence in the DNA which can be passed down from parent to child. Genes helps determine physical and functional traits for the body.

  • Gland -

    An organ in the human or animal body which releases particular chemical substances for use in the body or for discharge into the surroundings.

  • HER2/Neu -

    This oncoprotein is present in very small amounts on the outer surface of normal breast cells. HER stimulates cell growth, and breast cancer cells that produce too much of this protein tend to be more aggressive.

  • Hormone -

    A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs.

  • In Utero -

    In the womb or uterus.

  • Intrauterine Device -

    IUD stands for intrauterine device. It is a T shaped object that is inserted inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

  • Invasive Cancer -

    Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues.

  • Involution -

    The shrinking of an organ in old age.

  • Lactation -

    The release of breast milk from the mammary glands.

  • Lesions -

    A general term indicating a change in body tissue, often used as a synonym for tumors.

  • Ligaments of Cooper -

    The connective tissue that shapes and supports the breast.

  • Lymph Nodes -

    Small, bean-shaped collections of immune tissue that filter out cell fluid and bacteria that may be circulating in the body. They help fight infections and play a role in fighting cancer.

  • Lymphatic System -

    This collection of tissues and organs helps rid the body of excess fluid and it plays a major role in the immune response to harmful substances.

  • Lymphedema -

    A condition that is caused by damage to the lymphatic system’s capacity to move lymphatic fluid, often a result from having the axillary lymph nodes sampled or removed at the time of lumpectomy or mastectomy, or having had radiation to the axillary area. Symptoms include the hand, arm and tissues of the upper chest becoming swollen and painful. While it can be controlled with the use of compression sleeves and a massage technique called manual lymphatic drainage, it cannot be cured. Lymphedema can also occur in the feet and legs as a result of node removal in the groin or pelvic area.

  • Malignant -


  • Mammary Gland -

    Milk producing structure found in women.

  • Mammograms -

    A low dose x-ray picture of the breast that allows a doctor to view glandular tissue and determine the presence of cancer.

  • Mastectomy -

    An operation removing all or part of the breast.

  • Menarche -

    The first occurrence of menstruation.

  • Menopause -

    The end of a woman’s menstrual cycles, defined as 12 consecutive months of no menstrual periods.

  • Menses -

    Menstrual flow.

  • Metabolize -

    To change one substance into another form that can be used in the body.

  • Metastasis -

    Cancer cells break away from where they first formed (primary cancer), travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors (metastatic tumors) in other organs of the body.

  • Montgomery Glands -

    Combination of milk glands and sebaceous (oil) glands on the areola.

  • Mortality Rate -

    The measure of the number of deaths in a particular population.

  • Multicentric Breast Cancer -

    Breast cancer that occurs in a number of areas of the breast tissue.

  • Neoadjuvant -

    Utilizing drugs, radiation therapy, or other means of supplemental treatment before cancer surgery or other primary cancer treatment.

  • Nodularity -

    The normal “lumpy” texture of breast tissue that is made up of a combination of glandular, adipose, and fibrous structures.

  • Oral Contraceptives -

    A hormonal pill, taken by mouth, used to prevent pregnancy.

  • Ovaries -

    The female reproductive organs in which ova or eggs and hormones are produced.

  • Pathology -

    The science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the laboratory examination of tissue samples for diagnostic purposes.

  • Perimenopause -

    The period of a woman's life shortly before the occurrence of menopause, the length varies among women.

  • Physiological -

    Relating to the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions.

  • Predispose -

    To make susceptible.

  • Prenatal -

    Before birth.

  • Progesterone -

    A hormone that stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy, produced mainly by the ovaries. Progesterone may play a role in certain breast cancers.

  • Progestin -

    A synthetic hormone that maintains pregnancy and prevents further ovulation during pregnancy.

  • Prognosis -

    The expected or likely outcome of a disease, usually based on a statistical analysis of large groups of patients.

  • Proliferation Rate -

    Measures the increasing number of normal cells that grow and divide.

  • Proprioceptor -

    A receptor located in subcutaneous tissues, like muscles, tendons, and joints, that respond to stimuli produced within the body.

  • Puberty -

    The period of becoming first capable of reproducing sexually marked by maturing of the genital organs, development of secondary sex characteristics, and in humans the first occurrence of menstruation in the female.

  • Recurrence -

    The reappearance of the disease after it has been treated. In breast cancer, recurrence following primary breast cancer can be local (in the same place), regional (in surrounding tissue) or metastatic (in some other part of the body).

  • Regress -

    To return to a former, less developed stage.

  • Risk Factors -

    Anything that increases or decreases a person’s chance of developing a disease.

  • Secrete -

    To produce, discharge or give off.

  • Staging -

    The process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. Although there is more than one system for staging, the TNM system provides three important pieces of information: T - referring to the size of the Tumor, N - describing how far the cancer has spread to nearby Nodes and M - showing whether the cancer has spread or Metastasized to other organs of the body. Letters or numbers after the T, N, and M provide a patient with more details about each of these factors. The TNM descriptions can also be grouped together into Stages labeled with Roman numerals. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the number, the more serious the cancer is.

  • Susceptibility -

    The state or fact of being likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing.

  • Tamoxifen -

    A drug that blocks estrogen from affecting organs, such as the breast.

  • Thelarche -

    Breast development before the onset of puberty.

  • Tumor -

    A mass of cells that can be benign or malignant.

  • Wean -

    To cause a baby to stop feeding on a mother's breast milk and begin eating other foods.