Home > Your Health > Glossary of Breast Cancer Terms – A – C
Abscess: A pocket of pus that forms as the body’s defenses attempt to wall off infection-causing germs.
Areola: The colored tissue that encircles the nipple.
Aspiration: Removal of fluid from a cyst or cells from a lump, 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.
Average risk (for breast cancer): A measure of the chances of getting breast cancer without the presence of any specific factors known to be associated with the disease.
Benign: Not cancerous; cannot invade neighboring tissues or spread to other parts of the body.
Benign breast changes: Noncancerous changes in the breast. Benign breast conditions can cause pain, lumpiness, and other problems.
Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue or cells for examination under a microscope for purposes of diagnosis.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes: The principal genes that, when altered, indicate an inherited susceptibility to breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. These gene alterations are present in 80 to 90 percent of hereditary cases of breast cancer.
Breast density: Glandular tissue in the breast common in younger women, making it difficult for mammography to detect breast cancer.
Breast implants: Silicone rubber sacs, which are filled with silicone gel or sterile saline, used for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
BSE: Breast Self-Examination. The American Cancer Society says that women can use BSE to know what is normal for them.
Calcifications: Small deposits of calcium in tissue, which can be seen 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. Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that is confined to the cells where it began, and has not spread into surrounding tissues.
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 have already been treated for it.
Chromosomes: Structures located in the nucleus of a cell, containing genes.
Clinical breast exam: A physical examination by a doctor or nurse of the breast, underarm and collarbone area, first on one side, then on the other.
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.
Computer-aided diagnosis (CAD): The use of special computer programs to scan mammographic images and flag areas that look suspicious.
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 hormones during the menstrual cycle. Cyclic breast changes can produce swelling, tenderness and pain.
Cyst: Fluid-filled sac. Most breast cysts are benign.