Glossary

A

Aromatase Inhibitor:

A medication that reduces the amount of estrogen in the body. Aromatase inhibitors may be used to treat women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

B

Biopsy:

A procedure where tumor tissue is removed from the body for laboratory examination to determine whether or not cancer is present. A biopsy can be performed using a needle to extract a small piece of tissue or as a surgical procedure to remove a larger piece of tissue.

C

Cancer:

A condition in which abnormal cells divide without control or fail to die as part of a normal cell's lifecycle. Cancer cells can also invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy:

Treatment with cytotoxic drugs that destroy cancer cells (fast-growing cells). Chemotherapy may be used in addition to surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with other therapies such as radiation therapy or hormonal therapy.

Clinical Trial:

A research study to test drugs, procedures or testing technologies to determine whether these are effective and/or safe.

Core Biopsy:

A procedure which uses a needle to remove a small, intact sample of tissue from an identified breast mass in order to examine it and obtain a preliminary diagnosis.

D

Diagnosis:

Identification of a condition, such as breast cancer, by its signs and symptoms and the results of laboratory tests or other examinations.

Distant Recurrence:

The spread of cancer to parts of the body other than the place where the cancer first occurred. In breast cancer, the cancer can spread to the lungs, liver, brain or bones.

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS):

DCIS is an early or pre-invasive form of breast cancer that is confined to the milk ducts within the breast, and is considered “stage 0” disease.   

E

Early-Stage Invasive Breast Cancer:

A term that can be used to describe stage I and II, and some stage III breast cancer.

ER (Estrogen Receptor):

A feature (protein) that may be present on certain cells to which estrogen molecules can attach. The term "ER positive" refers to tumor cells that contain the estrogen-receptor protein. These cells are generally sensitive to hormone therapy.

G

Gene:

The functional and physical units of inheritance that are passed from parents to their offspring. The genes found in normal breast tissue can change their “expression," which can give rise to breast cancer.

Gene Expression:

The level of activity of a gene or group of genes.

Genome:

The complete genetic material of a living thing.

H

Hormonal Treatment (Hormone Therapy):

Medications used to reduce the effect of hormones in the body. In many cases of breast cancer, hormones can fuel the growth of breast cancer. Common hormonal therapies include tamoxifen and a newer class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Hormonal therapies are used to treat women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Hormone Receptor:

A protein on the surface of a tumor cell that binds to a certain hormone, activating tumor growth.

Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2):

A protein that appears in the cancer cells of some women with breast cancer. A woman whose tumor has greater than normal levels of HER2 is considered HER2 positive. A woman whose tumor has normal levels of HER2 is considered HER2 negative. Cancer cells that have high levels of HER2 tend to grow quickly and respond well to anti-HER2 therapy.

Human Genome Project:

An international research and technology-development effort aimed at mapping and sequencing the entire genome of human beings.

I

Invasive Breast Cancer:

Cancer that has spread from where it started in the breast into surrounding, healthy tissue. Most invasive breast cancers start in the ducts (tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple). Invasive breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Invasive breast cancer is also called infiltrating breast cancer.

L

Lumpectomy:

A surgical procedure that removes a localized mass of tissue, including the breast cancer tumor and a small amount of normal, non-cancerous tissue surrounding the tumor.

M

Mastectomy:

A surgical procedure to remove all or a large part of the breast.

N

Newly Diagnosed:

A term used to describe breast cancer that has recently been identified.

Node-Negative Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Node-Positive Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes (most commonly the axillary lymph nodes under the arms).

O

Oncotype DX® Test:

Oncotype DX Breast Cancer tests are available for invasive breast cancer and DCIS. It is a unique diagnostic test that looks at the genomic profile of a breast tumor.

The invasive test predicts the likelihood that early-stage, estrogen-receptor-positive, lymph-node-negative breast cancer will return, or recur (distant recurrence ). This test also provides information about a woman’s likelihood of benefiting from adding chemotherapy to hormonal treatment. Research presented at the 2007 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium shows that the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer test may also be informative for postmenopausal women with estrogen-receptor-positive, node-positive stage II to III breast cancer.

The Oncotype DX Breast Cancer test for patients with DCIS helps to predict the possibility of cancer returning as either a DCIS tumor or as an invasive breast cancer tumor. It is for women who have undergone a lumpectomy and have been recently diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as DCIS.

P

Pathology Report:

A report ordered by authorized healthcare professionals that describes what was found in tissue removed from the patient’s body. The report is generated after the tumor and surrounding tissue are checked by a pathologist. It usually includes information on the tumor’s grade and stage.

PR (Progesterone Receptor):

A feature (protein) that may be present on certain cells to which progesterone molecules can attach. The term “PR positive” refers to tumor cells that contain the progesterone receptor protein. These cells are generally sensitive to hormone therapy.

R

Radiation Therapy:

The use of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation is used for local control of the cancer at the site of the tumor.

Recurrence:

The return of cancer after treatment. This can be either local (at the site of the original tumor), or distant (beyond the original site).

S

Stage I Breast Cancer:

The tumor is up to 2 centimeters in diameter and has not spread beyond the breast.

Stage IIA Breast Cancer:

The tumor is up to 2 centimeters and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes under the arm, or the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters and has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIB Breast Cancer:

The tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters in diameter and has not spread to the lymph nodes.

T

TAILORx:

Although the Oncotype DX test has already been approved for use, research involving the test is ongoing. The Oncotype DX test plays a key role in a current clinical trial, the Trial Assigning IndividuaLized Options for Treatment (Rx), known as TAILORx. Participants will be divided into different treatment groups depending on their Recurrence Score® results. Patients with Recurrence Score results of less than 11, who are at low risk for recurrence and for whom chemotherapy is expected to provide little benefit, will receive hormone therapy alone. Patients with Recurrence Score results greater than 25, who are at higher risk for recurrence and for whom chemotherapy is expected to provide substantial benefit, will receive hormonal therapy and chemotherapy. Patients with Recurrence Score results between 11 and 25, whose risk for recurrence is moderate and for whom the benefit of chemotherapy is unclear, will be randomized to treatment with hormonal therapy plus chemotherapy versus hormonal therapy alone. The primary objective of the trial is to determine whether hormonal therapy alone offers no less benefit than chemotherapy plus hormonal therapy in women whose Recurrence Score results range from 11 to 25. For more information, please visit the ECOG website.

Tamoxifen:

A medication that interferes with the activity of the hormone estrogen to prevent it from fueling the growth of breast cancer. Tamoxifen is used to treat women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Tumor:

Tissue growth where the cells that make up the tissue have multiplied uncontrollably. A tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor Grade:

The characterization of a tumor based on how similar in appearance the cancer cells are to normal cells, and on how many of those tumor cells are dividing. Tumor grade is one of many factors that, when used in combination, can indicate how aggressive a patient’s cancer is.

W

Wire Localization Biopsy:

A type of biopsy performed when an abnormality can be seen on a mammogram but cannot be felt. A wire localization biopsy utilizes a mammogram to locate and identify the breast abnormality, after which a biopsy is performed.



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