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My Life Glossary



Focused destruction of tissue to reduce/remove or impair its function. Various methods include radiofrequency/heat, chemical, or other.

Access Port

A small device implanted under the skin that allows access to your veins; sometimes called a port-a-cath.

Adjunct Therapy

Treatment used in conjunction with primary treatment, to assist the primary treatment. It is also called adjunctive therapy.

Adjuvant Therapy

Treatment to lower the risk of cancer recurrence. It is often used after primary treatments, such as radiation or surgery. May also be used before the primary treatment and is then referred to as neoadjuvant treatment.

Advanced Cancer

Cancer that has spread to other places in the body.


Blood vessel formation. Tumor angiogenesis is growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow, caused by the release of chemicals from the tumor.


Programmed cell death- the normal process in which molecular steps lead to cell death. This is how the body gets rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer cells.


In some cases of cancer, there may be tumor cells in the ascites. Ascites can also occur in benign liver disease.



Not harmful.

Biological Therapy

Treatment to boost/restore ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases.  It is also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Agents used in biological therapy include monoclonal antibodies, growth factors, and vaccines. These agents may also have a direct antitumor effect. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biotherapy, BRM therapy, and immunotherapy.


There are various types of biomarkers. A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease.


A drug/substance used to treat hypercalcemia (abnormally high blood calcium) and bone pain caused by some cancers. Forms of bisphosphonates are also used to treat osteoporosis and for bone imaging. Bisphosphonates inhibit a type of bone cell that breaks down bone. Also called diphosphonate.

Blood-brain Barrier

A network of blood vessels with closely spaced cells that makes it difficult for potentially toxic substances (such as anticancer drugs) to penetrate the blood vessel walls and enter the brain.

Bone Scan

A radiology exam that creates images of the bones. A small amount of radiotracer material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner to form the diagnostic images.


Abnormal changes (mutations) in these genes are associated with higher chance of developing breast and ovarian cancers. These genetic mutations can be inherited, meaning passed from generation to generation in a family.


CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Nonconventional or nontraditional therapies that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) more traditional treatments.


Systemic treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.

Chronic condition

A disease process that occurs or can exist over a long period of time. Common chronic medical conditions include diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). For some types of cancers, metastatic cancer has become a chronic medical condition with which someone can live years with maintenance therapy.

Clinical Trials

Research done in humans to test a medicine or new treatment to determine safety and how well it works on people.

Complementary medicine

See CAM above. Non-medical treatments or therapies used in addition to medical treatment.

CT Scan (Computerized Tomography)

A radiology imaging test that uses x-rays to create detailed pictures of the body using different projections. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan. Depending on the reason for the test, contrast dye injected through the arm vein may be used.


Disease-free survival

The length of time after treatment for a specific disease during which a patient survives with no evidence of the disease. Disease-free survival may be used in a clinical study or trial to help measure how well a new treatment works. Also called DFS and disease-free survival time.


Part of the breast anatomy. The passageways that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple when a woman is lactating.

Ductal Cancer

A type of breast cancer of the ductal cells that arises in the ductal system. If the cancer is still contained in the milk ducts, it is called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and does not usually appear as a mass. If the cancer has broken through the wall of the milk ducts, then it is called invasive or infiltrating cancer.



An abnormal collection of fluid in hollow spaces/between tissues of the body. For example, a pleural effusion is fluid that has collected in the lung cavity, where the lungs are housed.


A hormone made in females by the ovaries that has effects on reproduction. Some breast cancer cells may grow in response to estrogen.



Coded information within cells in the body that contain instructions for cell growth and other processes

Genetics Counselor

A medical professional who specializes in talking with patients and their families about their risks for developing diseases caused by changes in genes

Growth factors

A substance made by the body that functions to regulate cell division and cell survival. Some growth factors are also produced in the laboratory and used in biological therapy.


Hand-foot Syndrome

A condition marked by pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or redness of the hands or feet. It sometimes occurs as a side effect of certain anticancer drugs. Also called palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia.


A protein involved in normal cell growth. HER2/neu is a type of receptor tyrosine kinase. Also called c-erbB-2, human EGF receptor 2, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.This can be found as “overexpressed” in some cancers. Cancer cells removed from the body may be tested for the presence of HER2/neu to help decide the best type of treatment. If found, Herceptin may be used as part of the therapy.


A chemical that is made and released by a gland in the body that affects cells or organs in another part of the body

Hormone Receptor Status

The measure of hormone receptors on cancer cells.

Hormone Therapy

Medicines that stop the action or production of hormones

Hormone Treatment

Treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones. For certain conditions (such as diabetes or menopause), hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), synthetic hormones or other drugs may be given to block the body’s natural hormones. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the gland that makes a certain hormone. Also called endocrine therapy, hormonal therapy, and hormone therapy.

Hospice Care

Caring for the whole person at the end of their lives by supporting their emotional, physical, social, and spiritual needs.


In situ cancer

See also ductal cancer above. Cancer that has not invaded the walls of the ducts or acinus. It is also called stage 0, or non-invasive, cancer.

Infiltrating/Invasive Breast Cancer

See also ductal cancer above. This term usually refers to ductal cancer type and refers to cancer that has invaded through the wall of the milk duct and infiltrated into the surrounding breast tissue. At this point, the cancer can spread locally in the same breast, to nearby regional nodes, and further beyond the affected breast.


Lobular Cancer

Also a type of cancer but differentiated from and much less common than ductal type. Like ductal type, lobular carcinoma can also form mass and distortion. However, it can also be much more subtle on imaging, and therefore harder to detect.


Part of the breast anatomy where milk is made before it travels down the milk ducts to the nipple.

Local Therapy

Treatments that are directly targeted to and affect cells in and around tumors.



By strict definition, cancerous.

Medical Oncologist

is in here twice. The first occurrence can be removed.

Median Survival Time

The time from diagnosis or treatment at which half of the patients with a disease are found to be, or expected to be alive. In a clinical trial, median survival time is one way to measure how effective a treatment is. Also called median overall survival and median survival.

Medical Oncologist

A physician specializing in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.  The medical oncologist may also be the main treating physician, and can also provide and/or coordinate the treatments given by other specialists.


By definition, natural age-related menopause starts 12 months after the last menstrual period. It usually begins in the 40s or 50s.


Spread beyond the primary cancer site in the breast. Metastasize means spread to regional nearby nodes and beyond. or nearby lymph nodes to distant areas of the body.


Spread beyond the breast or nearby lymph nodes to distant areas of the body.


Cancer that has spread beyond the original location to other parts of the body.

Monoclonal antibodies

A protein made in the laboratory that can locate and bind to substances in the body, including tumor cells. Each monoclonal antibody is made to find one substance. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat some types of cancer and are being studied in the treatment of other types. They can be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive materials directly to a tumor.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

An advanced form of radiology imaging exam using no radiation to create detailed images of the body.



A period where tests show no evidence of disease.


A nerve problem that may cause causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, or muscle weakness in different parts of the body. It usually begins in the hands or feet and can worsen or improve over time.


Cancer that stays within the ducts or lobules of the breast.  Also called in situ or stage 0 cancer.

NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug)

A drug that decreases fever, swelling, pain, and redness.


ONJ (Osteonecrosis of the Jaw)

Cancer patients taking certain bone drugs called bisphosphonates may develop bone damage in the jaw, which disrupts the blood supply to the bone, causing tiny breaks that can eventually lead to bone collapse.


Surgery to remove one or both ovaries.


A substance used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are like opiates, such as morphine and codeine, but are not made from opium. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. Opioids used to be called narcotics. An opioid is a type of alkaloid.

Osteoblastic/Osteolytic Bone Metastases

Metastatic bone lesions are also known as osteolytic, osteoblastic and mixed, and are most common where the destructive processes outstrip the laying down of new bone. Osteoblastic lesions result from new bone growth stimulated by the tumor.

Ovarian Ablation

Surgery, radiation therapy, or a drug treatment to stop the functioning of the ovaries. Also called ovarian suppression.


Palliative Care

Medical care given to reduce pain and maintain the best quality of life

PARP Inhibitor

A substance that blocks an enzyme involved in functions of the cell, including repair of DNA damage, which could have been caused by normal cell actions, UV light, some anticancer drugs, and radiation used to treat cancer.  This is a is a type of targeted therapy, that may cause cancer cells to die. Also called poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor.

Pathology report

A profile of your test results that helps doctors figure out treatment plan.


The period of time before a woman begins menopause, but experience some of its symptoms.

PET Scan

A radiology imaging exam using small injection of radioactive material (usually with glucose) to create images of the body.


A thin, flexible tube inserted into a vein in the arm and extends into a larger vein in the body, used to administer chemotherapy treatment.

Placebo-controlled Studies

Clinical trials in which one group of participants does not receive the treatment being tested so that researchers can compare with and without the new treatment that is being tested.


See also menopause, above listing.


The time before menopause.

Primary Diagnosis

The first diagnosis of breast cancer.


A hormone made in females by the ovaries that has effects on reproduction. Some breast cancer cells may grow in response to this hormone.


The course of a disease. In cancer, the growth of tumors or spread of the disease.

Progression Free Survival

The length of time during and after treatment in which a patient is living with a disease that does not get worse. Progression-free survival may be used in a clinical study or trial to help find out how well a new treatment works. Also called PFS.

Proliferation Index

A number that shows what percentage of the cancer cells are actively dividing at a given time.


Quality Life

The quality of an individual’s daily well-being.


Radiation Oncologist

A doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation.

Radiation Therapy

The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radio-labeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Also called irradiation and radiotherapy.

Radiofrequency Ablation

A procedure using radio waves to heat and destroy abnormal cells. The radio waves travel through electrodes.  Radiofrequency ablation may be used to treat cancer and other conditions.

Radiologist or Breast Imaging Radiologist

The physician imaging specialist who interprets all of the breast imaging studies. These doctors also perform the needle procedures used to biopsy (ultrasound, stereotactic, or MRI guided) and preoperatively localize the problem areas. They are breast imaging specialists who work with the breast surgeons, breast oncologists, and breast radiation therapists in the team approach.

Side Effect

Unwanted effect caused by medicines or treatments, including emotional and physical symptoms.

Recurrent Disease

Cancer that has come back.


Decreases in the tumor size or spread of cancer.


Side Effect

Unwanted effect caused by medicines or treatments, including emotional and physical

Stages of Breast Cancer

These describe the extent of the cancer in the body and are based on whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive, tumor size, lymph node involvement, and whether or not it has spread to other body parts. Cancer staging is one of the key factors that allow healthcare providers to determine prognosis and treatment.


Performing tests to determine extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.

Systemic Therapy

Medicines/treatments that treat the whole body by traveling through the bloodstream.


Targeted Therapy

Treatment that uses drugs or other substances, such as monoclonal antibodies, to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatments.

Treatment Breaks

Short breaks in treatment that allow for rest or for special events.

Triple Negative (ER-negative, PR-negative, HER2/neu-negative)

Breast cancer cells that do not have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, or large amounts of HER2/neu protein. Also called ER-PR-HER2/neu- and TNBC.

Tumor Marker

A substance that may be found in tumor tissue or released from a tumor into the blood or other body fluids. A high level of a tumor marker may mean that a certain type of cancer is in the body. Examples of tumor markers include CA 125 (in ovarian cancer), CA 15-3 (in breast cancer), CEA (in ovarian, lung, breast, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract cancers), and PSA (in prostate cancer).



A substance made by cells that stimulates new blood vessel formation. Also called vascular endothelial growth factor.