Abscess: A pus pocket that forms when the body tries to wall off infection-causing germs.

Adjuvant therapy: Treatment (i.e. chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or biological therapy) given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure.

Areola: Colored tissue that encircles the nipple.

Aromatase inhibitor: A type of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women with hormone-dependent breast cancer that keeps estradiol, a female hormone, from forming.

Aspiration: The removal of fluid from a cyst or cells from a lump, using a needle and syringe.

Atypical hyperplasia: Benign microscopic breast changes that moderately increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Average risk (for breast cancer): A measurement of the chances of getting breast cancer when factors associated with the disease are not present.

Axillary node dissection: A surgical procedure for removing lymph nodes in the underarms to determine the extent of the cancer.


Benign: Not cancerous

Benign breast changes: Noncancerous changes in the breast that can cause pain, lumps and other problems.

Biopsy: A surgical procedure that involves removing tissue or cell samples for the purpose of diagnosing cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes: Gene alterations that indicate a high risk of inherited breast, and possibly ovarian, cancer. These gene alterations are present in 80%-90% of hereditary cases of breast cancer.

Breast implants: Rubber sacs filled with silicone gel or sterile saline that are used to reconstruct breasts after a mastectomy.

BSE (Breast Self-Examination): A highly recommended monthly breast screening method that involves a woman looking at and feeling each breast for lumps, abnormal areas or swelling. Conducting a monthly BSE sets a personal baseline for normal breast tissue.


Calcifications: Small calcium deposits in tissue that can be detected by a mammogram.

Cancer: 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 tissue lining or surface tissue of organs, glands or other body structures; most cancers are carcinomas.

Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that has not spread into surrounding tissues.

Chemoprevention: The use of medications or vitamins to prevent cancer in people who have precancerous conditions or high risk of developing cancer. It may also be used to prevent cancer from returning.

Chromosomes: A DNA molecule containing all or part of genetic material.

Clinical breast exam: Exam performed by a doctor or nurse that includes the breasts, underarms and collarbone area.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning: This diagnostic imaging test is often used to detect cancer. The images help doctors confirm the presence of a tumor and determine its size and location.

Core needle biopsy: Removal of a core of tissue with a small cutting needle for the purpose of diagnosing cancer.

Cyclic breast changes: Normal tissue changes that occur during the menstrual cycle; may cause swelling, tenderness and pain.

Cyst: Fluid-filled sac; most breast cysts are benign


Dense breasts: Breasts that have a large amount of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat. It may be difficult for a mammogram to detect cancer in dense breasts.

Diagnostic mammogram: Breast X-ray performed after a screening mammogram shows an abnormality.

Digital mammography: Enhanced breast imaging technique that allows abnormalities to be seen more easily.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): Cancer confined to the breast tissue.

Ducts: Channels that carry body fluids. For example, breast ducts transport milk to the nipple.

Excisional biopsy: Surgical removal of an abnormal area of tissue, usually along with a margin of healthy tissue, for microscopic examination. Excisional biopsies remove the entire lump from the breast.


False negative mammograms: Breast X-rays that miss cancer when it is present.

False positive mammograms: Breast X-rays that indicate breast cancer is present when it is not.

Fibroadenoma: Benign breast tumor made up of both structural (fibro) and glandular (adenoma) tissues.

Fibrocystic disease: See Generalized breast lumpiness.

Fine needle aspiration: Removal of fluid from a cyst or clusters of cells from a solid lump using a slender needle.

Frozen section: Sliver of frozen biopsy tissue that provides a quick preliminary cancer diagnosis; not 100% reliable.


Gene: The basic physical and functional unit of heredity; made up of DNA.

Generalized breast lumpiness: Breast irregularities and lumpiness, commonplace and noncancerous; also called fibrocystic disease or benign breast disease.

Genetic change: An alteration in a segment of DNA, which can disturb a gene’s behavior and lead to disease.

Gray: A unit for measuring radiation dose.


HER2: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 is a gene that can cause breast cancer.

Higher risk (for breast cancer): A measurement of the chances of getting breast cancer when factor(s) associated with the disease are present.

Hormone replacement therapy: Hormone-containing medications taken to offset the symptoms and side effects of hormone loss that accompanies menopause.

Hormones: Chemicals produced by various glands in the body that control most bodily functions.

Hyperplasia: Excessive growth of cells in an organ or tissue; they are not cancerous, but could become cancerous.


Incisional biopsy: Surgical removal of an abnormal area of tissue.

Infection: A process through which germs such as bacteria or viruses enter the body, attach to cells and multiply. When the body’s natural processes are overwhelmed by germs, the body cannot protect itself and an infection may develop.  

Infiltrating (invasive) cancer: Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes under the arm or other parts of the body.

Inflammation: The body’s protective response to injury or infection. Symptoms include redness, swelling, pain and loss of function.

Inflammatory breast cancer: Rare type of breast cancer in which the breast looks red, swollen and feels warm. It may have a pitted appearance, similar to the skin of an orange.

Intraductal papilloma: Small lump near the nipple that may cause nipple discharge or bleeding. It is not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Invasive (infiltrating) cancer: Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes under the arm or other parts of the body.


Laser beam scanning: Breast cancer detection technology in which a laser beam shines through the breast and records an image using a special camera.

Lobes, lobules, bulbs: Each breast has 15-20 lobes that branch into smaller lobules. Each lobule ends in tiny bulbs that can produce milk.

Localization biopsy: Use of mammography to find abnormal tissue so it can be removed for examination.

Lumpectomy: Surgery to remove a cancerous breast lump. The procedure is usually followed by radiation therapy.

Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs that produce, store and transport cells that fight infection and disease.

Lymphedema: A condition that can develop when lymph vessels or lymph nodes in the underarm or groin are removed or treated with radiation. Lymphatic fluid builds up in the connective tissue, which causes swelling in the arms, legs and/or other parts of the body.


Macrocalcifications: Coarse calcium deposits caused by aging, old injuries or inflammations. They are usually benign.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic imaging tool that provides detailed pictures of areas of the body to help determine if a biopsy is needed.

Malignant: Cancerous; malignant tumors can invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

Mammary duct ectasia: A benign breast condition in which ducts beneath the nipple become dilated and inflamed, causing pain and nipple discharge.

Mammogram: X-ray of the breast.

Mammography: Breast tissue exam using X-rays. 3-D mammography allows radiologists to exam breast tissue layer by layer for a more detailed view than standard mammography.

Mastectomy: Surgery to partially or fully remove the breast.

Mastitis: Breast infection common in mothers who breastfeed.

Medical oncologist: Main healthcare provider for someone who has cancer. An oncologist diagnoses and treats cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological therapy.

Menopause: Point in a woman’s life when she has not had a period for one year.

Menstrual cycle: Monthly bleeding during which the uterus sheds its lining.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another 

Metastasize: To spread from one part of the body to another 

Microcalcifications: Tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that can show up on a mammogram. They may be a sign of breast cancer.

Modified radical mastectomy: Breast cancer surgery during which the breast, skin, breast tissue, areola, nipple and most or or all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed. The lining over the chest muscles are also removed.

Monoclonal antibody therapy: Cancer treatment that uses natural immune system functions to fight cancer.

Mutation: Permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene.


Needle biopsy: A procedure in which the surgeon uses a needle to extract tissue cells examination.

Neoadjuvant therapy: Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy that shrinks a tumor before the main treatment begins.

Nipple discharge: Fluid that seeps from breast nipples.

Nonpalpable cancer: Cancer cells that can be seen on mammograms but cannot be felt.

One-step procedure: Biopsy and surgical treatment combined into a single operation.

Osteoporosis: A disease that weakens bones and makes them susceptible to breakage. Certain cancer treatments can increase the risk of developing the condition.


Palpation: The act of using the hands to examine areas of the body, usually for diagnostic reasons. For example, palpating breasts for lumps is a crucial part of a physical breast exam.

Pathologist: A doctor who studies cells and tissues under a microscope to make a disease diagnosis.

Phytochemicals: Naturally-occurring plant-based chemicals that have nutrients that may reduce a person’s cancer risk.

Plastic surgeon: A surgeon who specializes in reconstructive surgery 

Positron emission tomography (PET scanning): A diagnostic imaging tool that uses a camera and radioactive tracers to look at organs in the body 


Radiation oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy: Cancer treatment that uses high energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Radiologist: A doctor who uses diagnostic imaging tools such as CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound, to image body tissues and treat disease.

Risk factors (for cancer): Anything that could increase a person’s changes of getting cancer. Common risk factors include age, diet, tobacco use and family history.


Sentinel node biopsy: A procedure during which the sentinel lymph node is identified, removed and examined to determine if cancer cells are present.

Stage: Cancer stages refer to tumor size and whether the cancer has spread. Staging helps doctors develop treatment plans and identify treatment options.

Stereotactic localization biopsy: Minimally invasive procedure that uses 3-D X-ray to pinpoint a specific area. It is used in needle biopsy of nonpalpable breast abnormalities.

Surgical biopsy: Surgical removal of tissue for examination and diagnosis.

Surgical margins: The area around the edge of tumor tissue that is removed during a biopsy.

Systemic therapy: Treatment that reaches the cells by traveling through the bloodstream.


Tissue: A group or layer of cells that works together to perform a specific bodily function.

Tumor: An abnormal growth of tissue. Tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor markers: Proteins produced by both normal and cancerous cells. The markers are used to detect, diagnose and manage some types of cancer. An elevated level of a tumor marker could indicate the presence of cancer.

Ultrasound: A diagnostic imaging tool that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of internal organs. The technology helps doctors detect possible tumors.

X-ray: A diagnostic imaging tool that uses high-energy radiation to examine parts of the body. X-rays help doctors diagnose, stage and treat cancer. Breast X-rays are called mammograms.

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Fever greater than 100.5 degrees, chills or other symptoms of infection
  • Bleeding or severe bruising
  • Depression or anxiety that interferes with daily activities
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to keep fluids down
  • Pain, burning or bleeding when passing urine
  • Rash or other allergic reactions t medication
  • Severe constipation or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath, persistent cough or colored phlegm
  • Soreness or sores in the mouth or throat
  • Unrelieved pain and.or vomiting

Related Locations

Cancer Rehab & Wellness Center


2790 Clay Edwards Drive,
2nd Floor Pavilion, Rehab Services
North Kansas City, MO 64116

Inpatient Cancer Clinic


2800 Clay Edwards Drive
Main Hospital
North Kansas City, MO 64116

Outpatient Treatment Center


2790 Clay Edwards Drive
3rd Floor Pavilion
North Kansas City, MO 64116