It is important to understand the medical terminology related to your treatments and diagnosis. Here is a partial list of the most common terms. This information will assist youthroughout your decision making process.
Adjuvant Therapy: Treatment given after the primary cancer treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or biological therapy.
Alopecia: The loss of hair as a result from chemotherapy or radiation therapy administered to the head. Hair loss from radiation may be permanent. Hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary.
Anthracyclines: A type of chemotherapy that comes from certain types of Streptomyces bacteria. Anthracyclines damage the DNA in cancer cells, causing them to die.
Axillary Lymph Node Involvement: The spread of cancer from the primary tumor to the axillary lymph nodes, which are located in the arm pit area. The axilla is typically the first site of spread (metastasis) in breast cancer.
Bisphosphonates: A group of drugs routinely used in the treatment of osteoporosis. In cancer, bisphosphonates may reduce the incidence of metastasis to the bones and, when cancer has spread to the bones, they have been shown to prevent fractures, promote healing and reduce pain.
Breast Cancer: A potentially fatal tumor, because of its ability to leave the breast and travel to other vital organs and continue to grow if it is not removed from the body. These are breast cells that are abnormal with uncontrolled growth.
Biological Response Modifier (BRM) Therapy: Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections and other diseases. It is also, used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.
Cancer: A general term for more than 100 diseases in which there is an uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells. Cancer cells can spread locally and through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy: Often referred to simply as “chemo”. Treatment with anticancer drugs. Chemotherapy can be taken orally or by needle into a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic therapy because the drugs enter the blood stream and travel throughout the body in order to kill cancer cells.
Healthcare Proxy: Advance directive that gives a person (such as a relative, lawyer or friend) the authority to make healthcare decisions for another person. It becomes active when that person loses the ability to make decisions for him or herself.
Lymphatic Invasion: One of the many factors a pathologist looks for when evaluating tissue from the primary tumor obtained by biopsy. If cancer cells are seen in the middle of a blood vessel, this is called vascular invasion or lymphatic invasion. Such invasion in the primary tumor suggests that the cancer is potentially more dangerous than if there is no such invasion, as there is a greater likelihood of it metastasizing.
Malignant Tumor: A mass of cancer cells.
Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation.