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Cancer arising in gland-forming tissue; the medical term meaning "related to a gland" is "adeno;" breast lobules and ducts are types of glands.


Treatment given after primary breast surgery to prevent or delay recurrence, or treatment given as "preventive" when there is no obvious evidence of cancer. Usually refers to addition of chemotherapy, radiation, or hormonal therapy.


Hair loss.


The area of dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.


Removal of fluid from a lump, often a cyst, with a needle and a syringe.

Atypical hyperplasia

A benign (noncancerous) condition in which cells have abnormal features and are increased in number. This condition places women at a higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

Axillary node dissection

Removal of some of the lymph nodes in the armpit to aid in staging of breast cancer.

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A growth that is NOT cancerous.


Removal of a sample of tissue that is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist to see if cancer is present. When the entire tumor or lesion is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a small needle, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

Bone marrow

The soft material inside bones. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.

Breast cancer in situ

Very early, noninvasive cancer cells that are confined to the ducts or lobules in the breast and cannot spread beyond the breast. Commonly abbreviated as DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) or LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ).

Breast conserving surgery

An operation to remove the breast cancer but not the entire breast itself. Types of breast conserving surgery include lumpectomy (removal of the lump) and quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter of the breast).

Breast reconstruction

Surgery to rebuild the shape of a breast.

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A term for diseases in which cells divide abnormally without control or order. Cancerous cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic systems to other parts of the body.


Cancer that begins in the lining or covering of an organ.


Treatment with drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells; also used to shrink tumors prior to surgery.

Clear margins

An area of normal tissue that surrounds cancer tissue.

Clinical trial

A controlled research study to determine the best possible treatment for a specific condition. Clinical trials take place in many hospitals and cancer centers across the country, with sponsorship and review by the National Cancer Institute. In these clinical trials, doctors use the newest treatments to care for cancer patients. By agreeing to participate in a clinical trial, the patient agrees to follow the protocol of the specified treatment and to cooperate with the scientists to find new, improved treatments for cancer. Participation is voluntary in all clinical trials, and patients may drop out of a clinical trial if they wish.

Complementary therapies

Non-traditional therapies used to complement traditional medical procedures. Examples are therapeutic touch, art therapy, music therapy, aromatherapy, biofeedback, yoga, meditation, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and numerous others.

Core biopsy

A biopsy that uses a small cutting needle to remove a sample of tissue from a breast.


A sac or mass filled with fluid.

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This glossary is largely an excerpt from An Informational Guide to Breast Cancer, August 2005, HCA, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. Printed here with permission. Reviewed by Joanne Hindle, RN, MS, NP-C, OCN. We thank HCA and these individual contributors: Connie Carson, Ph.D., Healthcare Consultant, Littleton, Colorado; Rebecca Knight, MD, FACS, General Surgeon, Foothills Surgical Associates, Wheat Ridge, Colorado; Francene Mason, M.D., Medical Oncologist, Boulder, Colorado; Susan Lasker-Hertz, RN, MSN, CHPN, Director of Clinical Services, Denver Hospice, Denver, Colorado; Barbara Schwartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.S., Breast Cancer Surgeon, HealthONE, Denver, Colorado; and Dev Paul, D.O., Ph.D., Medical Oncologist, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, Denver, Colorado.