On Beyond Cancer

My life with metastatic breast cancer

Breast cancer lingo October 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — onbeyondcancer @ 11:17 am

After a chat with my dad the other day, it occurred to me that I am probably using a lot of “lingo” here that doesn’t make sense to some of my readers.  I am so absorbed into cancerland from talking with healthcare providers and other patients that I don’t even realize it.  So I’m going to start working on a mini-glossary.  Here are a few terms that might help:

biopsy – The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on
the cells or tissue.

blood count –  The numbers of red and white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood.

bone metastases/bone mets – Cancer cells that have spread from the first cancer site, such as the breast, and are growing in the bones.

bone scan – A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.

brain metastases/brain mets – Cancer cells that have spread from the first cancer site, such as the breast, and are growing in the brain.

chemoembolization – A procedure in which the blood supply to a tumor is blocked after anticancer drugs are given in blood vessels near the tumor. Sometimes, the anticancer drugs are attached to small beads that are injected into an artery that feeds the tumor. The beads block blood flow to the tumor as they release the drug. This allows a higher amount of drug to reach the tumor for a longer period of time, which may kill more cancer cells. It also causes fewer side effects because very little of the drug reaches other parts of the body.

CT scan –  computerized tomography – A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan.

infusion – A method of delivering fluids or drugs, usually into a vein.

lesions/mets/metastases – I’ve been using these interchangeably to mean small tumors made up of breast cancer cells that are located somewhere other than the breast (i.e. a breast tumor in the liver).

liver metastases/liver mets – Cancer cells that have spread from the first cancer site, such as the breast, and are growing in the liver.

MRI –  magnetic resonance imaging  – A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Magnetic resonance imaging makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray and is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones.

neuropathy – A nerve problem that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, or muscle weakness in different parts of the body. It usually begins in the hands or feet and gets worse over time. Neuropathy may be caused by physical injury, infection, toxic substances, disease (such as cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, or malnutrition), or drugs, including anticancer drugs. Also called peripheral neuropathy.

PET scan – A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called positron emission tomography scan.

radiofrequency ablation – A procedure that uses radio waves to heat and destroy abnormal cells. The radio waves travel through electrodes (small devices that carry electricity). Radiofrequency ablation may be used to treat cancer and other conditions.

resection – Surgery to remove tissue or part or all of an organ.

tumor marker – A substance that may be found in tumor tissue or released from a tumor into the blood or other body fluids. A high level of a tumor marker may mean that a certain type of cancer is in the body. Examples of tumor markers include CA 125 (in ovarian cancer), CA 15-3 (in breast cancer), CEA (in ovarian, lung, breast, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract cancers), and PSA (in prostate cancer).


I got these definition from a few different places online including Breast Cancer Care, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network , and the National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms.  If there are others that need explaining, leave me a comment to let me know!  Also, for those who haven’t been reading since the beginning, you may want to check out What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?  and Keeping Track of Metastatic Breast Cancer.


2 Responses to “Breast cancer lingo”

  1. Robin Says:

    Thank you this was really helpful. Now I don’t need to go to my husband every time I need a definition. 😉

  2. Margie Says:

    When is the quiz? Love, Mom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s