Taking Charge: Glossary of Terms


antioxidants -- substances in certain foods that fight oxygen-caused damage to body tissues (oxidation)
ascites -- accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
atypical hyperplasia -- a type of benign breast disease that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer


biopsy -- a procedure in which a tissue sample is taken. Types of breast biopsy include fine need aspiration (FNA), core needle, stereotactic, surgical, excisional
benign -- not cancerous
BRCA1, BRCA2 -- genetic mutations associated with the development of inherited breast and ovarian cancers


calcification -- mineral deposits within the breast tissue seen on mammograms
CA-125 -- a blood screening test sometimes used for ovarian cancer
chemotherapy -- treatment of cancer with drugs that kill tumor cells
clomiphene citrate -- a fertility drug that may be associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer
computed tomography (CT) scan -- an X-ray examination sometimes used to diagnose cancer
cyst -- a fluid-filled sac that can occur in the breast, ovary and other parts of the body


dissection -- surgically separating out certain tissues
ductal carcinoma -- breast cancer that arises in the milk ducts
ductogram -- an X-ray examination of the milk duct
dysgerminoma -- an ovarian cancer that starts in germ cells (the cells that produce eggs)


epithelial ovarian carcinoma -- the most common type of ovarian cancer, which arises from the cells covering the ovary
estrogen -- one of the major female hormones produced by the ovaries and elsewhere in the body


fibrocystic changes -- formation of fluid-filled sacs (cysts) and scarring in the connective tissue that supports the breast


genetic tests -- tests that examine DNA in blood or other tissue to find genetic abnormalities
germ cell tumor -- see dysgerminoma grade -- a measure of how abnormal cancer cells look under a microsope
granulosa cell tumor -- a type of ovarian cancer originating in estrogen-producing cells


hormone replacement therapy -- taking supplemental estrogen and progesterone to replace the body's natural hormones after menopause
hysterectomy -- surgical removal of the uterus


in situ -- cancer that is confined to its place of origin and has not spread
infiltrating -- cancer that has invaded nearby tissues
inflammatory breast cancer -- a rare, fast-growing breast cancer
invasive cancer -- cancer that has spread to surrounding tissue and/or other parts of the body
immature teratoma -- a type of ovarian tumor that most often affects younger women
irradiation -- X-ray treatment


laparoscopy -- examination of the abdomen by inserting a miniature telescope-like instrument through a small incision
laparotomy -- a surgical incision in the abdomen
lobular carcinoma -- breast cancer that starts in the lobular cells of the milk ducts
lumpectomy -- breast cancer surgery that removes the tumor and a margin of surrounding tissue
lymphadenectomy -- removal of lymph nodes
lymphedema -- swelling of the lymph nodes
lymph nodes -- small glands that filter a type of fluid (lymph) in the body
lymphatics -- the small vessels that carry lymph


malignant -- cancerous
mammogram (screening or diagnostic) -- X-ray examination of the breast
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- an imaging study that uses magnetic fields to show body tissue
mastectomy --surgical removal of the breast. Types of mastectomy include partial, total, modified radical and radical
medullary carcinoma -- a rare type of breast cancer with little fibrous tissue in the tumor
menopause -- cessation of the menstrual cycle
metastasize -- to spread. Metastases refer to cancerous growths that have spread from the point of origin.
mortality rate -- the number of deaths from a specific disease per 100,000 women
mucinous carcinoma -- a rare type of breast cancer in which cells secrete sticky (mucinous) material
mutation -- alteration of a normal gene


noninvasive cancer -- a very early cancer that has not spread beyond the type of tissue in which it started


oophorectomy (unilateral and bilateral) -- removal of one or both ovaries
oncogene -- a cancer-causing gene, such as HER2
oncologist (gynecologic) -- a doctor trained in treating cancers of the female reproductive tract
ova -- eggs
ovulation -- the process of releasing a mature egg from the ovary


Paget's disease of the nipple -- a rare breast cancer that spreads from the breast ducts to the nipple area
palpate -- to feel with the hands
phyllodes tumor -- a rare breast tumor that forms in the connective tissue of the breast (stroma)
progesterone -- a female hormone
prognosis -- expected outcome
proliferative breast disease without atypia -- increased growth of normal-appearing breast cells
prophylactic -- preventive
prosthesis -- a breast form


radiation therapy -- treatment that uses X-rays to kill cancer cells
receptor positive, receptor negative -- terms used to describe whether or not a breast tumor has receptors for female hormones


salpingectomy (unilateral and bilateral) -- removal of one or both fallopian tubes
Sertoli-Leydig cell tumor -- a type of ovarian tumor originating from hormone-producing cells
staging -- finding out how much cancer is present and whether it has spread to other parts of the body
stroma -- connective tissue
stromal tumor -- an ovarian cancer that starts in the connective tissue of the ovary, where some female hormones are produced
survival rate -- the percentage of patients who survive an illness over a specified period of time


transvaginal sonography -- an ultrasound examination performed through the vagina used to diagnose ovarian cancer
tubal ligation -- tying off the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy
tubular carcinoma -- a form of ductal breast cancer in which cells are well differentiated and the fibrous tissue (stroma) is invaded by small tubules


ultrasound (sonography) -- an imaging study that uses high-energy sound waves to show body tissues
undifferentiated -- not differentiated, primitive, immature


wire localization -- use of a thin wire to help the surgeon biopsy the correct area of the breast

Drugs Used in Cancer Treatment

AC -- a combination chemotherapy including doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamid
CMF -- a combination chemotherapy including cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and fluorouracil
CAF -- a combination chemotherapy including cyclophosphamide, doxorubicine (Adriamycin) and fluorouracil
Cysplatin -- a medication used to treat ovarian cancer
Paclitaxel (Taxol) -- a medication originally obtained from the bark of the yew tree, used to treat ovarian cancer
Raloxifene -- a medication that mimics the action of estrogen in some tissues and blocks its effect in others
Tamoxifen -- an anti-estrogen drug used to treat and prevent breast cancer

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.