Must-Know Definitions

Adjuvant therapy: "Add-on" treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation, hormone or biological therapy) aimed at killing stray cancer cells; typically it follows surgery.

Aromatase inhibitors: Drugs that reduce the female hormone estradiol (estrogen). Often given to postmenopausal women with hormone-dependent breast cancer before or after tamoxifen.

Biological therapy: Treatments targeting a specific molecule in cancer cell growth or survival. Used to strengthen the immune system and lessen side effects of other treatments.

Biopsy: Removal and examination of tissues, cells, or fluids to determine if disease is present.

Hormonal therapy: Drug treatment that works against hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Hormonal therapy treats breast cancers in two ways: by lowering the amount of the hormone estrogen in the body, or by blocking the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells.

Lymphedema: Swelling (often in the arm) from fluid buildup after lymph nodes are removed, blocked or treated with radiation.

Metastasis: Spread of cancer cells, through blood or lymph, from the primary tumor to other parts of the body.

Receptors: Sites on or in cells where particular substances can attach, causing the cell to react—in the case of cancer, usually to grow.

Sentinel lymph node: First node in line as fluid drains from a primary breast tumor. It is the site where cancer is likely to spread first.

Tissue margin: Tissue around a cancer site. A negative tissue margin test means no cancer cells were found; a positive test means cancer cells remain and more surgery is needed.


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Must-Know Definitions
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