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Breast Terminology
Dr.  Michael D. Grant, M.D., F.A.C.S.




Atypical Hyperplasia- Cells that are abnormal and increased in number. This is not a malignant diagnosis.


Axilla- The underarm area


Aromatase Inhibitor- An anti-estrogen pill used to treat postmenopausal women who have estrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive invasive cancer (Arimidex, Femara, Aromasin)


Aspiration- The withdrawal of fluid or tissue with a small needle into a syringe


Benign- Non-cancerous


Biopsy- The removal of fluid or tissue for the purpose of examination under the microscope


Breast Cyst- Fluid filled sac in the breast tissue that when aspirated, the cyst is then gone


Calcifications- Small deposits of calcium in the breast tissue which can be seen on mammograms and are determined by the radiologist to be in one of the following three categories:


  • Benign- requires routine follow up                                                                 

  • Probably Benign- requires more frequent follow up                                                                                                                

  • Indeterminate or Suspicious- requires biopsy

Carcinoma- A form of cancer that develops from epithelial cells that line many different organs of the body

 as such skin, uterus, ovaries, lungs, breast (Breast Cancer arises from the duct and lobule structures of the breast)          

  • Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS)- This is an early form of cancer which arises from the duct cells in the breast. This abnormal proliferation of cancer cells is confined to the walls of the duct structure and therefore, usually does not spread outside of the breast. It is also referred to as Noninvasive Duct Cell Carcinoma or Intraductal Carcinoma.                                                                                                                                                                          

  • Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS)- Also commonly referred to as Lobular Neoplasia, this is a premalignant  condition that forms in the milk-producing lobules of the breast. This diagnosis places the patient at a higher risk  of developing breast cancer in the future, but in itself, is not treated as a malignant condition.


  • Invasive (Infiltrating) Duct Cell Carcinoma- This is a form of cancer that arises from the duct cells in the breast but has spread to the surrounding tissues. This type of tumor is capable of spreading to other parts of the body.


  • Invasive (Infiltrating) Lobular Carcinoma- This is a form of cancer that arises from the milk-producing lobules of the breast, but has spread to the surround tissues. This type of tumor is capable of spreading to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy- Treatment with anti-cancer drugs


Core Needle Biopsy- The use of a small core needle to take samples of the abnormal tissue for microscopic evaluation


Fibroadenoma- Solid, benign breast mass


Fine Needle Aspiration- The use of a slender, fine needle to remove cells that are put onto slides and sent to  the pathologist for review under the microscope


Her2/neu Oncogene- A protein that is over-expressed on the surface of some breast cancer cells. These types of          invasive breast cancers are sometimes treated with targeted monoclonal antibody drugs, such as trastuzumab    (Herceptin), in combination with chemotherapy agents to significantly reduce cancer recurrence.


Hormone Therapy (Anti-hormonal Therapy, Endocrine Manipulation)- Treatment of cancer by removing, blocking or adding hormones


Lobular Carcinoma In Situ- A pre-malignant condition that forms in the lobules of the breast and puts the patient at higher risk for breast cancer in the future


Lumpectomy- This is the surgical removal of the malignant tumor and a border (margin) of normal breast tissue followed by radiation therapy. Lumpectomy can also be referred to as partial mastectomy, segmental segmental resection, excisional biopsy, or breast conserving surgery.

Lymphedema- Swelling in the arm or hand caused by the accumulation of excess fluid that may occur from scarring of the lymphatic channels after surgery or radiation therapy


Lymph Nodes- These are bean-shaped organs which act as filters of debris and cancer cells from the channels of the lymphatic system. They are located throughout the entire body and serve an immune function. The specific lymph nodes of interest related to breast cancer are located in the armpit (axillary), above the collar bone (supraclavicular), and underneath the breast bone (internal mammary).


Malignant- Cancerous


3-D or Digital Mammogram- X-ray of the breast

Mammogram showing normal breast tissue

Mammogram showing a malignant tumor

Margin- The area of tissue surrounding a tumor when it has been surgically removed


Metastasis- The spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another part of the body through the lymphatic system or blood stream


Modified Radical Mastectomy- The removal of the majority (98%) of the breast tissue, the nipple, the areola, and two-thirds of the axillary lymph nodes

Needle Localization- In this procedure, a radiologist targets a breast tumor (or calcifications) with a thin guidewire that allows the surgeon to accurately remove a nonpalpable tumor at the time of surgery. The localization procedure may be accomplished with sonographic, mammographic, stereotactic, or MRI guidance using a local anesthetic, usually on the day of surgery.

Oncologist- A doctor who specializes in treating cancer


  • Medical Oncologist- doctor who treats cancer with chemotherapy and hormonal therapy

  • Radiation Oncologist- doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy

  • Surgical Oncologist- doctor who treats cancer surgically


Palpable- Readily felt with the hands on examination


Partial Breast Irradiation (PBI)- An "investigational" method of treating a patient with local radiation therapy after a lumpectomy, a technique that only treats the lumpectomy site rather than the entire breast (standard treatment)


Pathology- The study and diagnosis of disease by examining samples of tissue underneath the microscope


Proliferation Index- A measure of how many cells within a specific tumor are dividing that is typically used to guage the “aggressiveness” of a malignant tumor by performing a test called “Ki-67” or “MIB-1”


Prophylactic Mastectomy- Surgical removal of the breast that is not known to contain breast cancer


Prosthesis- An artificial breast form worn inside a bra after a mastectomy


Radiation Therapy- Treatment with high-energy radiation rays to kill cancer cells

Raloxifene (Evista)- an “anti-estrogen” pill used to improve bone density and as a “chemoprevention” agent to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in some women who have not been diagnosed with the disease 


Sentinel Lymph Node(s)- The first node(s) to which breast cancer cells are most likely to metastasize from the breast

Simple Mastectomy- The complete removal of the breast tissue, the nipple, and the areola


Skin-Sparing Mastectomy- The complete removal of the breast tissue while saving the majority of the outer skin envelope- usually combined with a reconstructive procedure for a better cosmetic result


Sonography- A procedure in which sound waves determine the density of a mass (solid or fluid-filled

Stereotactic Biopsy- A small amount of breast tissue is removed with a technique that uses special mammographic views, a computer, and a needle to pinpoint a target area in the breast. This technique is usually utilized to biopsy calcifications or other tiny abnormalities that can only be detected mammographically.

Tamoxifen (Nolvadex)– This is an "anti-estrogen" pill often given to slow or stop tumor growth. It is commonly used for treatment of patients with breast cancers that express estrogen and/or progesterone receptor activity. Tamoxifen is also used as a "chemoprevention" agent to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in some women who have not been diagnosed with the disease.

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