Abscess: A pocket of pus that forms as the body's defenses attempt to wall off infection-causing germs.
Adenocarcinoma: A cancer that develops in gland-forming tissue. Most breast cancers are adenocarcinomas.
Anesthetics: Drugs or gases that produce complete or partial loss of feeling or sensation. Local anesthetics numb a specific (local) part of the body. General anesthetics produce a state of unconsciousness and eliminate pain sensation throughout the body.
Areola: The colored tissue that encircles the nipple.
Aspiration: Removing fluid from a cyst or cells from a mass, using a needle and syringe.
Atypical hyperplasia: Cells that are both abnormal (atypical) and increased in number. Benign microscopic breast changes known as atypical hyperplasia moderately increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
Benign: Not cancerous; cannot invade neighboring tissues or spread to other parts of the body.
Benign breast conditions: Noncancerous changes in the breast. Benign breast conditions can cause pain, lumpiness, nipple discharge, and other problems.
Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue or cells for examination under a microscope for purposes of diagnosis.
Breast self-exam (BSE): A method for checking one's own breasts for changes in the way they look or the way they feel.
Calcifications: Small deposits of calcium in tissue, which are visible on mammograms.
Cancer: A general name for more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells grow out of control. Cancer cells can invade and destroy healthy tissues, and they can spread through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in tissues lining or covering the surfaces (epithelial tissues) of organs, glands, or other body structures. Most cancers are carcinomas. (See Adenocarcinoma.)
Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that is confined to the cells where it began, and has not spread into surrounding tissues. (See Noninvasive cancer.)
Chemoprevention: The use of drugs or vitamins to prevent cancer in people who have precancerous conditions or a high risk of cancer, or to prevent the recurrence of cancer in people who already have been treated for it.
Computed tomography (CT) scanning: An imaging technique that uses a computer to organize the information from multiple x-ray views and construct a cross-sectional image of areas inside the body.
Core needle biopsy: The use of a small cutting needle to remove a core of tissue for microscopic examination.
Cyclic breast changes: Normal tissue changes that occur in response to the changing levels of female hormone during the menstrual cycle. Cyclic breast changes can produce swelling, tenderness, and pain.
Cyst: Fluid-filled sac. Breast cysts are benign.
Diagnostic mammography: The use of mammography to evaluate the breasts of a woman who has symptoms of disease, such as a lump, or whose screening mammogram shows an abnormality.
Duct: A channel that carries body fluids. Breast ducts transport milk from the breast's lobules out to the nipple.
Emission tomography: A technique that uses emissions from radioactive tracers to construct images of the distribution of the tracers in the human body.
Estrogen: A female hormone. Estrogen is involved in breast development and may help some types of breast cancer to grow.
Excisional biopsy: The surgical removal (excision) of an abnormal area of tissue, usually along with a margin of healthy tissue, for microscopic examination. Excisional biopsies in the breast remove the entire lump.
Fat necrosis: Lumps of fatty material that form in response to a bruise or blow to the breast (or surgery or radiation therapy).
Fibroadenoma: Benign breast tumor made up of both structural (fibro) and glandular (adenoma) tissues.
Fibrocystic disease: See Generalized breast lumpiness.
Fine-needle aspiration: The use of a slender needle to remove fluid from a cyst or clusters of cells from a solid lump.
Frozen section: A sliver of frozen biopsy tissue. A frozen section provides a quick preliminary diagnosis but is not 100 percent reliable.
Generalized breast lumpiness: Breast irregularities and lumpiness, commonplace and noncancerous. Sometimes called "fibrocystic disease" or "benign breast disease."
Genetic change: An alteration in a section of a chromosome.
Hormone replacement therapy: Hormone-containing medications taken to offset the symptoms and other effects of the hormone loss that accompanies menopause.
Hormones: Chemicals produced by various glands in the body, which produce specific effects on specific target organs and tissues.
Hyperplasia: Excessive growth of cells. Several types of benign breast conditions involve hyperplasia.
Incisional biopsy: The surgical removal of a portion of an abnormal area of tissue, by cutting into (incising) it, for microscopic examination.
Infection: Invasion of body tissues by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Inflammation: The body's protective response to injury (including infection). Inflammation is marked by heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function.
Intraductal papilloma: A small wartlike growth that projects into a breast duct.
Invasive cancer: Cancer that spreads into and destroys nearby tissues.
Laser scanning: A technique using laser beams and camera imaging to scan the body's tissue.
Lobes, lobules, bulbs: Each of the breast's 15 to 20 lobes branches into smaller lobules, and each lobule ends in scores of tiny bulbs. The bulbs produce milk which is carried by ducts to the nipple.
Localization biopsy: The use of mammography to locate tissue containing an abnormality that can be detected only on mammograms, so it can be removed for microscopic examination.
Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs that produce, store, and transport cells that fight infection and disease.
Macrocalcifications: Coarse calcium deposits typically associated with benign breast conditions.
Malignant: Cancerous. Can invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
Mammary duct ectasia: A benign breast condition in which ducts beneath the nipple become dilated and sometimes inflamed, and which can cause pain and nipple discharge.
Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.
Mastitis: Infection of the breast. Mastitis is most often seen in nursing mothers.
Menopause: The time when a woman's monthly menstrual periods cease. Menopause is sometimes called the "change of life."
Menstruation: The monthly discharge, during a woman's reproductive years, of blood and tissues from the uterus.
Metastasis: The spread of cancer, through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, from one part of the body to another.
Microcalcification: A small deposit of calcium in the breast, which can show up on a mammogram. Certain patterns of microcalcifications are sometimes a sign of breast cancer.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). A technique that uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
Needle biopsy: Use of a needle to extract cells or bits of tissue for microscopic examination.
Nipple discharge: Fluid coming from the nipple.
Noninvasive cancer: A growth made up of cells that are cancerous in appearance, but which has not spread into neighboring tissues. Noninvasive breast cancers are known as ductal carcinoma in situ and lobular carcinoma in situ.
Nonpalpable breast abnormalities: Changes in breast tissue that can be seen on mammograms but which cannot be felt.
One-step procedure: Biopsy and surgical treatment combined into a single operation.
Palpation: Use of the fingers to press body surfaces, to feel tissues and organs underneath. Palpating the breast for lumps is a cornerstone of physical breast examination and BSE.
Pathologist: A doctor who diagnoses disease by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Permanent section: Biopsy tissue specially prepared and mounted on slides so that it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist.
Prophylactic mastectomy: Surgery to remove a breast that is not known to contain breast cancer for the purpose of eliminating cancer risk.
Rad: A unit of measure for radiation. It stands for radiation absorbed dose.
Radiation: Energy carried by waves or by streams of particles. Various forms of radiation can be used in low doses to diagnose disease and in high doses to treat disease. (See X-rays.)
Radiologist: A doctor with special training in the use of x-rays (and related technologies such as ultrasound) to image body tissues and to treat disease.
Recurrence: Reappearance of cancer at the same site (local recurrence), near the original site (regional recurrence), or in other areas of the body (metastasis).
Risk factors: Conditions or agents that increase a person's chances of getting cancer. Risk factors do not necessarily cause cancer; rather, they are indicators, statistically associated with an increase in risk.
Sclerosing adenosis: A benign breast disease that involves the excessive growth of tissues in the breast's lobules.
Screening: Looking for signs of disease such as cancer in people who are symptom-free.
Sonogram: The image produced by ultrasound.
Specimen x-ray: An x-ray of tissue that has been surgically removed (surgical specimen).
Stereotactic localization: A technique that employs three-dimensional x-ray to pinpoint a specific target area. It is used in conjunction with needle biopsy of nonpalpable breast abnormalities.
Surgical biopsy: See Excisional biopsy and Incisional biopsy.
Tamoxifen: A hormonally related drug that has been used to treat breast cancer and is being tested as a possible preventive.
Tumor: An abnormal growth of tissue. Tumors may be either benign or cancerous.
Tumor markers: Substance in blood or other body fluids that may serve as indicators for the presence of cancer.
Two-step procedure: Biopsy and treatment done in two stages, usually a week or two apart.
Ultrasound: The use of sound waves to produce images of body tissues.
X-rays: A high-energy form of radiation. X-rays form an image of body structures by traveling through the body and striking a sheet of film. Breast x-rays are called mammograms.