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Breast Cancer Glossary

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Breast Cancer breast Cancer Glossary

Like any medical condition, breast cancer often seems to come with its own language. This glossary should help everyone familiarise themselves with some terms commonly associated with breast cancer.


A type of breast cancer that originates in the glandular tissue such as the ducts or lobules of the breast.


A benign growth that originates in the glandular tissue of the breast.


The removal of fluid from a lump. Usually the lump is a cyst and the fluid is removed via needle.

Benign Tumour

A tumour that is non-cancerous. This type of growth does not spread to surrounding tissues.


The removal of cells for further examination to determine if cancer is present.


Genes by which breast cancer can be inherited. Women with one of these genes have a greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast Self Exam

Breast exams performed by women themselves. Involves both observing and touching the breast to investigate for potential changes in its look and/or feel.


Areas of calcium build-up in the breast. Macro-calcifications are benign. Micro-calcifications may indicate the early stages of breast cancer.


Cancer that is present in the lining or covering of an organ.


A type of cancer treatment that involves anticancer drugs. Generally administered after breast surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells that were not removed surgically.

Clinical Breast Exam

A breast exam carried out by a trained medical professional. Generally involves a physical examination of the breasts and underarms.


A fluid-filled sac that is generally benign.


Fluid that drips from the nipple. Discharge can be bloody, milky or watery and can be benign or related to breast cancer.


A tube in the breast that allows milk to pass to the nipple. Can become inflamed if bacteria enters through the breast.

Fat Necrosis

Fatty material that grows spontaneously or is the result of an injury to the breast.


A type of benign breast tumour that is made up of structural and glandular tissue.

Fibrocystic Breast Disease

A benign condition in which lumps are present in the breast, such as due to cysts.

In Situ

Latin phrase translating to "in one place".


A part of the breast. Most breasts are made up of over 15 distinct lobes.


A type of surgery that involves only removing the cancerous lump in a breast.


X-rays that are used to determine if there are abnormal growths in the breast. Generally a mammogram involves two x-rays, one from the top and one from the side.


A type of surgery that involves the removal of the entire breast.


An infection in the breast. Most common in nursing mothers as bacteria enters via the nipple.


Breast pain. Can be cyclical (related to the menstrual cycle) or non-cyclical.


When cancer travels beyond the point of origin via the blood or lymph systems.


Surgical breast reconstruction involves implants to replace breast tissue that has been removed.


The absence of cancer. Remissions can be temporary or permanent.

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