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Glossary of Terms

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both breasts. It is the most common type of cancer in women, but it is highly curable when detected early.

While the number of women who have breast cancer increases over the age of 50, the disease can affect women in their 40s and even 30s. Having a family history of breast cancer is a significant risk factor, but most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors other than age. Although rare, breast cancer can occur in men.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or thickening in the breast. Other symptoms include changes in the skin of the breast, spontaneous nipple discharge or bleeding, and scaling or crusting of the nipple.

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage of the breast cancer, whether nearby lymph nodes contain cancer cells, and how the cancer cells look under the microscope. Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the cancer. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation may also be used to treat breast cancer.

Breast Self-Examination

A self evaluation of the breast is an inspection a woman performs on her own breasts to feel/detect any lumps that could indicate breast cancer.

Clinical Breast Examination

A clinical breast examination is an inspection of the breast performed by a health professional and used along with mammograms to detect breast cancer and other breast problems.

Mammogram

A mammogram is a test involving digital or X-ray imaging of the breast to detect abnormalities in breast tissue. There are two types of mammograms:

  • Screening mammograms are performed in an outpatient setting on women who have no signs of cancer. Screening usually involves two images of each breast.
  • Diagnostic mammograms evaluate:
    • Abnormalities such as lumps, pain, thickening, nipple discharge or inexplicable change in breast size or shape
    • A suspected finding from a prior screening

Nipple Discharge

The flow of fluid from the nipple.

Tumor

A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors are a classic sign of inflammation, and can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound imaging of the breasts (mammary glands) is used to screen for breast problems, such as a lump, and determine whether the lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or a solid mass.