Glossary

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Adenosis: A benign finding in the breast where there are an increased number of glands found in a lobules of the breast.

Angiolymphatic invasion: This term, also called lymphovascular invasion, means cancer cells are found within the lymphatic channels or blood vessels and thus they can spread to other parts of the body.

Apocrine metaplasia: A benign finding in the breast usually affecting the lining of the breast ducts or breast cysts.

Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH): An abnormal proliferation of cells in the ducts of the breast that has some features of low grade ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) but does not meet all of the pathologic criteria for DCIS.

Atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH): A finding in the lobules of the breast where too many cells begin to partially fill up the milk-producing glands.

Axilla: This refers to the “armpit” area. The axillary lymph nodes reside here.

Breast conservation therapy/surgery: This refers to a surgical procedure that removes only a portion of the breast, unlike mastectomy. Depending on the results of the surgery, a patient may require additional treatment such as radiation or systemic therapy.

Cancerization of lobules: This term refers to ductal carcinoma in situ extending into the lobules of the breast.

Core needle biopsy: A biopsy which takes small samples or “cores” of tissue from the breast for a surgical pathologist to review. This procedure is usually performed by a breast imager (radiologist).

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): An abnormal growth of cells within the ducts of the breast that have not yet invaded the surrounding breast tissue. DCIS is usually graded as low, intermediate, or high grade.

Fibroadenoma: The most common benign tumor in the breast.

Fibrocystic changes: A term that refers to a benign alteration in the breast usually composed of cysts, fibrosis, and apocrine metaplasia.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA): A biopsy procedure using a very thin needle to withdraw cells from a lesion which are then placed on a slide for a cytopathologist to review.

Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH): A special study performed on tissue using fluorescent probes to identify the presence or absence of specific parts of chromosomes (genes) in a cell.

Frozen section consultation: A procedure performed by a pathologist during surgery in which a piece of tissue provided by the surgeon is quickly frozen and a slide is made for an immediate diagnosis.

HER2: A protein on the surface of normal and cancer cells. When there is too much of this protein a breast cancer is said to over-express HER2; this is usually associated with a worse prognosis but predicts response to certain types of systemic therapies that a medical oncologist prescribes.

Histology: The study of tissues, also called microscopic anatomy.

Hormone receptors: These are proteins in cells that can be present in normal cells and cancer cells. In the breast, the two most important are estrogen and progesterone receptors.

Hyperplasia: This term simply means too many cells.

Immunohistochemistry: A special study performed on tissue to determine the presence or absence of specific proteins in the tissue.

Invasive breast carcinoma: This refers to carcinoma that has invaded beyond the ducts and lobules of the breast into the surrounding tissues and has the capability to metastasize. The most common type is invasive carcinoma, NST but there are many special types of invasive carcinoma.

Isolated tumor cells (ISTs): This refers to small numbers of tumor cells in a lymph node that measure less than 0.2 mm and are found by routine pathology or by using immunohistochemistry.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): A finding in the lobules of the breast where the cells are similar to ALH but they fill up and expand the milk-producing glands in the lobules.

Lobular neoplasia:  A term used to describe atypical lobular hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma in situ.

Lumpectomy: Also called partial mastectomy, this is a surgical procedure where a portion of the breast is removed with the intent of getting clear surgical margins.

Mammogram: A test performed by a radiologist to examine the breast for abnormalities.

Margin: A surgical margin is the distance between the tumor and the edge of the tissue removed surgically, usually measured in millimeters.

Mastectomy: A surgical procedure in which the entire breast is removed.

Metastasis: A cancer that has spread to another part of the body.

Necrosis: A term which means dead cells.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy:  This term refers to chemotherapy that is given prior to your definitive surgical procedure.

Neoplasm: This term simply means new growth. It can be benign or malignant (cancerous).

Nottingham grade: This is a grading system for invasive carcinomas of the breast. There are three grades, I or well-differentiated, II or moderately-differentiated, and III or poorly-differentiated.

Paget’s disease: A disease of the nipple in which cancer cells grow within the epidermis. Paget’s disease may be associated with an underlying in situ or invasive carcinoma of the breast.

Papilloma: A growth in the duct system of the breast that can sometimes cause a nipple discharge.

Pathologist: A medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosing of diseases.

Phyllodes tumor: A tumor of the breast somewhat related to fibroadenoma but which can recur and possibly metastasize. Only a pathologist can make the distinction between a fibroadenoma and a phyllodes tumor.

Re-excision: A surgical procedure performed when an initial excision has close or positive margins.

Sentinel lymph node: A node or few nodes which are thought to be the first to “drain” tumor cells from the breast through the lymphatic system.

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