Glossary of Terms

Breast cancer

Breast cancer results when abnormal cells in the breast tissue, ducts, or glands begin to grow and divide out of control, forming a malignant (cancerous) tumor. If untreated, the malignant tumor cells can grow into the tissue surrounding the breast and can travel through the body’s lymphatic system to other organs in the body. A specific cause of breast cancer is not known; however, there are certain factors that may put a person at a higher risk of developing the disease. They include: Age, Gender, Genetic factors, Ethnicity, Family history, Personal health history, Pregnancy history, Menstrual history, Poor diet, Lack of exercise, Radiation exposure, Excessive use of alcohol, Postmenopausal hormone therapy

Digital mammography

A system that captures the X-ray image of the breast to a digital file that can be viewed on the computer rather than capturing the image as photographic film. The image can be viewed immediately. The radiologist can zoom in and adjust the size, brightness, and contrast.

Breast ultrasound

An imaging technique in which a small, hand-held instrument called a transducer is placed against the skin. The device emits sound waves that bounce off body tissues and are converted into a black and white image that is displayed on a computer screen.

Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

An imaging test in which a contrast dye is administered to highlight different tissue structures of the breast. A scan is conducted which captures dozens of images of the breast using magnets and radio waves. Each image is a slice, which when compiled on the computer, provide the radiologist detailed, cross-sectional views of the breast tissue.

Breast CAD (computer-aided detection)

A test that accompanies either film or digital mammograms. The image is analyzed by a computer, which then provides the radiologist an image flagging any suspicious areas that should be checked more closely.

Minimally invasive diagnostic breast biopsies

These are performed by a radiologist who uses computerized imaging to guide him or her in taking tissue samples using a sterilized needle.

Stereotactic vacuum-assisted biopsy

A minimally invasive diagnostic technique in which a doctor uses a vacuum probe inserted into a small incision to take small tissue samples guided by mammogram images of the breast.

Ultrasound-guided vacuum-assisted biopsy

A minimally invasive diagnostic technique in which a doctor uses a vacuum probe inserted into a small incision to take small tissue samples guided by ultrasound images of the breast.

MRI guided core biopsy

A minimally invasive diagnostic technique in which a radiologist uses a vacuum probe inserted into a small incision to take small tissue samples guided by magnetic resonance images of the breast.

Chemotherapy

A systemic treatment using a combination of drugs administered orally or intravenously to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given after a lumpectomy or mastectomy to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence. It also may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor, making it easier to remove or so that a lumpectomy can be performed rather than a mastectomy. Side effects of treatment typically depend on the types and amounts of drugs used.

Radiation therapy

Uses strong beams of energy to target and destroy cancer cells that may have been left behind after surgery. It can reduce the risk of recurrence by 70%. Most commonly, radiation is delivered externally by a high energy beam. In some cases, radiation can be delivered internally in the lumpectomy site, by implanting small pieces of radioactive material, called seeds, which emit radiation to a small area.

Breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction involves recreating one or both breasts following lumpectomy or mastectomy. The reconstruction can take place during the removal or it can be performed at a later time. Additionally, a surgeon can use the patient’s own skin and soft tissue, or the patient can opt for breast prostheses, which intend to simulate the look and feel of natural breasts. Reasons for rebuilding the breasts, how and when to do it are very personal and vary by individual.